Brothers Lose Round In Eminent Domain Battle

Thursday, April 5th 2007, 5:39 pm
By: News On 6

STILLWATER, Okla. (AP) -- Two brothers holding the last piece of property Oklahoma State University needs for its planned athletic village lost one round Thursday in their eminent domain battle with the school.

Payne County District Judge Donald Worthington ruled that Kevin and Joel McCloskey can not challenge the validity of the university's Board of Regents, which initiated proceedings to acquire the home.

The McCloskeys had claimed the board was unconstitutional because it had not abided by a long-forgotten requirement that at least five of its eight members be farmers.

The ruling means the brothers may not make this claim in their court case.

The McCloskeys plan to continue to challenge the university's right to seize the property through eminent domain, the legal concept under which private property can be taken for public use. The next court hearing in the case is planned for July 23.

"This judge ruled that a board of regents that is improperly constituted can take your property, and there's nothing you can do about it," said Harlan Hentges, attorney for the McCloskeys, following the ruling.

Hentges said he plans to appeal the decision.

"I'm afraid today's ruling will ensure we have to come back and do it again," he said.

Attorneys for the university have long argued that questioning the validity of the regents was a non-issue in the case, because its members have been appointed by the governor with the advice and consent of the Oklahoma Senate.

"We have felt all along this was a distraction," said OSU spokesman Gary Shutt. "We're ready to move ahead and reach a fair price for the property."

For months, both sides have fought in court over the small, ranch-style home, the final sliver of property OSU needs to build the first phase of its $316 million village.

Spurred on by a record $165 million gift from oilman alumnus T. Boone Pickens, the athletic village is to include an indoor practice complex, outdoor practice fields and a baseball stadium.

Oklahoma State said the McCloskeys' home will not be in the way of the spring groundbreaking on the first project in the village, an indoor practice facility. Eventually, the school wants to turn the brothers' land into outdoor practice fields.

Last fall, commissioners appointed by a Payne County district judge estimated McCloskey's property to be worth $84,000, which was about $20,000 more than the university offered them for the property.

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11/27/2005 Ambitious OSU Plan Rouses Anger Among Campus Neighbors

12/22/2005 OSU President Regrets Treatment Of Nearby Stillwater Residents

2/21/2006 Document Indicates OSU Planned Eminent Domain Use

7/28/2006 Regents Give OSU Authority To Use Eminent Domain For Athletic Village

10/6/2006 Ruling Delayed In OSU Eminent Domain Case

10/16/2006 Membership Of OSU Regents Under Fire Again

12/7/2006 Stillwater Eminent Domain Hearing

12/12/2006 Stillwater Eminent Domain Court Hearing Postponed

2/1/2007 Stillwater Property Owners Await Decision On Appeal

2/12/2007 Oklahoma Lawmakers Revive Eminent Domain Legislation

3/1/2007 Garden Planned At Stillwater Eminent Domain Site