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Channel 14 WFIE - Evansville, Indiana
City Responds to Shriners Suit
Feb 3, 2006
Reporter: Drew Speier
New Media Producer: Rachel Chambliss
The Hadi Shrine Temple has filed suit against the city of Evansville. The Shriners went to Vanderburgh Superior Court Friday afternoon to contest action taken last week by the Redevelopment Commission.
Commissioners put the downtown Shrine Temple on an acquisition list for possible eminent domain. So what does the city think about Friday's developments?
According to the Shriners, eminent domain is no longer a possibility. Therefore, they are now talking with the city about other acquisition options.
Friday's suit was filed because, by law, the Shriners say they had to contest the Redevelopment Commission's action within ten days.
Now that the suit has been filed, it's the city's turn to respond.
Newswatch spoke with Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel on Friday.
Weinzapfel says, "We'll file an answer, which is the natural course of a legal proceeding."
But the mayor says the city has no plans to follow through with legal action against the Shriners, but they will respond legally.
Weinzapfel replies, "What we have talked about is we'll do that then, just let the whole matter sit. And if neither one of us prosecute it, it's not going to go anywhere."
That's because both the city and the Shriners believe that the future of the prime real estate, where the Hadi Temple sits, can be decided without a legal battle. This is why the two sides would rather talk than fight in court.
Weinzapfel replies, "It's a good development site. We want to work with the Shriners. If they have an interest in moving, the city would be interested in acquiring that property for the purposes of economic development. We're going to work with them. We're not going to take the property through eminent domain."
The Hadi Temple has been at their Walnut and Riverside Drive location for 82 years, right across the street from the riverfront. No one knows better than the Shriners about the value of this property.
Shriner potentate Steve Harris says, "I think we're all aware there's a limited available riverfront space left. We have a golden nugget in downtown Evansville."
And the Shriners may be willing to give up this prime spot for a golden nugget price. So it all may come down to a dollar figure - somewhere in the millions.
Weinzapfel answers, "Well, eventually yea, that's where we'll be. That's what it comes down to."
The city of Evansville will have 20 days from Friday to legally respond to the Shriners lawsuit. Between now and then, the two sides will continue their talks, in hopes of reaching an agreement over the temple property that will make both parties happy.