Red Lion to hold special meeting to reconsider eminent domain

Red Lion Borough Council will hold a special meeting on Monday, Jan. 15, to reconsider an eminent domain ordinance vetoed by the former mayor.

A legal notice posted in The York Dispatch on Tuesday, Jan. 9, states the meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m at the borough office, 11 E. Broadway.

Scott Thompson — joint owner of ArthurLee LLC with his wife, Sandra Graham — said both he and his wife plan to attend and argue against the ordinance that would allow the borough to claim a right to part of their property.

"I still feel very strongly that this particular use of eminent domain is egregious misuse of the power of eminent domain," Thompson said when reached by phone Thursday, Jan. 11.

Former Red Lion Mayor Steven E. Kopp vetoed the previous ordinance passed by the borough Wednesday, Dec. 27.

More:Mayor vetoes eminent domain in Red Lion trespass dispute

Mayor Kopp's veto letter and reasons for denying eminent domain to the borough, dated Dec. 28, 2017.

"You do this to one party and property owner — who's next?" Kopp asked in explaining his veto.

Council president Tony Musso, who could not be reached for comment, had disagreed with the former mayor's decision, alleging he was not fully aware of the issue.

Musso said after the veto that the council, including new member Stephanie Weaver, would vote on a new ordinance and present it to newly elected Mayor Walter Hughes.

Thompson said he expects the ordinance to pass 4-3, and he expects Hughes to sign the ordinance, if passed.

However, Kopp made his decision to veto after receiving multiple phone calls from residents who had attended the previous meeting.

"I think if enough citizens come in and voice their concerns" there is "always a possibility" of swaying the new mayor, Thompson said.

Kopp had said he was concerned that the borough council was disregarding the will of its residents.

"This council has a history of ignoring large groups that speak out on issues," Kopp said after his veto. "They serve at the will of the people."

Hughes could not be reached for comment Thursday evening.

More:Facing trespass suit, Red Lion looks to eminent domain

Scott Thompson, right, and his wife, Sandra Graham, owners of the Zarfos Furniture building, are shown in the parking lot, built by the borough, which is adjacent to their property in Red Lion, Wednesday, May 31, 2017. The couple recently won a lawsuit against the borough, for essentially using their building as a retaining wall for the lot, with the court ruling the act as trespassing. Dawn J. Sagert photo

Background: Thompson and Graham sued the borough for trespassing after it built a parking lot against one of their company's properties — the former Zarfos furniture store on West Broadway.

Although the borough had made the case that its actions weren't causing harm to the building, Court of Common Pleas Judge Christopher Menges ruled in ArthurLee's favor, pointing out that, under state law, a subject is liable to another for trespass regardless of whether the trespass causes harm.

The borough council's vote to use eminent domain came after Menges' ruling and ahead of a scheduled Jan. 17 hearing for relief in the trespass suit.

The ordinance passed Dec. 27 would have allowed the borough to "transmit soil load surcharges of a parking lot onto lands of ArthurLee."

But according to eminent domain code, the borough also would be required to pay the business owners fair compensation, plus damages.

Thompson claimed at the Dec. 27 meeting that the borough had "about a half a million pounds of dirt" that was pushed up against the wall of his 112-year-old building, which was being used as a retaining wall.

Borough solicitor Michael Craley said in using eminent domain, the borough hoped to avoid litigation that might require removal of the lot, which Musso alleged could cost the borough hundreds of thousands of dollars.