WHEELING - With the refusal of the state Supreme Court to grant a stay in an eminent domain proceeding involving the proposed sports field in East Wheeling, city officials have been cleared to take possession of disputed properties - including one owned by a candidate for mayor - in the neighborhood.
In February, Ohio County Circuit Judge Arthur Recht ruled in the city's favor in its plan to use eminent domain to take possession of property owned by three people, Jerome Poynton, Helen Adelson and David Coleman. The three own properties on 15th Street and had refused to sell them to the city. Agreements to sell for other properties needed for the sports field had been reached previously.
Eminent domain proceedings are used in cases in which property owners and government cannot reach agreement on sale of property. Government entities can use them, as Wheeling did, to obtain court orders the property be sold at fair market prices.
Recht's ruling in February gave the city the authority to take possession of the properties immediately. But Poynton said Saturday the city had informed him previously it would allow him until midnight Monday, April 30, to vacate the property.
Poynton is a candidate for mayor, running in the May 8 election against incumbent Mayor Andy McKenzie.
Using Charleston attorney Steven Wiley, Poynton and Adelson appealed Recht's ruling to the state Supreme Court. Wiley said they have until June 4 to file briefs in the case.
But last week, the high court refused to grant a motion requesting a stay, or delay, on when the city can take possession of the Poynton and Adelson properties, Wiley said. A similar request also was denied in Ohio County Circuit Court. That means the city is within its rights to "enter," or take possession of the property, after midnight Monday.
McKenzie told the News-Register he was not aware of what plans there are in that regard. He suggested contacting City Manager Robert Herron, who was not available for comment Saturday evening.
Poynton said he was concerned about meeting the deadline to move his possessions out of his home, especially since the Supreme Court has not heard arguments on whether the city should have been granted the right to use eminent domain to obtain it. He added he considers the upcoming election a referendum on the city's action, and believes it would be "mean-spirited" to take over the property before voters have cast ballots in the mayoral race.