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Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Update: Reactions from Cold Spring, School District on Judge's DAV Property Ruling

The addition of a new Campbell County Middle School would alleviate issues of crowding and provide a location closer to the northern tier of the county.

by Robin Gee

Campbell County School Board Superintendent Dr. David Rust has issued a brief statement in light of a recent court decision to grant the schools the right to proceed with eminent domain on the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) property on Alexandria Pike.

The schools moved toward eminent domain when they lost a bid to purchase the property outright for a new middle school. The ruling allows them to proceed to condemn and seize the property. Full approval from the Kentucky Department of Education will be needed to complete their plans to purchase the land and renovate the available building.

"This is an exceptional opportunity for our students and families in the north as this site will provide a middle school much closer to their homes, reducing travel times, and for our southern families, as the congestion in our current middle school will be cut in half," Dr. Rust said. "I appreciate the effort by our Board of Education to secure this site for our kids and now look forward to the renovation and construction of a bright new middle school."

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The city vows to appeal

The city of Cold Spring had been working to secure the same property for use as a long-desired medical facility for the area. Officials attempted to block the schools’ eminent domain plan with the argument that the property, now owned by the city, would be a public use by a public entity. Under Kentucky law, a property owned by a public entity for a public use cannot be seized through eminent domain for a different public use. 

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More pointedly, the city contends the importance of the property for economic development potential for the region cannot be overstated.

"I am disheartened by the court’s ruling," said Cold Spring Mayor D. Angelo Penque."While the court acknowledged the city had a legitimate governmental purpose in economic development, the fact that the court found that St. Elizabeth and potentially Children’s Hospital were the intended users of the land, authorized the school to exercise eminent domain. The court also indicated it could not strictly apply the definition of the property being public versus private, which appears contrary to express law."

City officials plan to continue their fight and have enlisted help from legislators and others with a strong interest in economic development.

"I have been in contact with various legislators indicating a desire to help, as well as the Kentucky League of Cities, who have indicated a desire to support Cold Spring in any appeal, since the holding has a chilling impact on the economic viability of cities," Penque said.

"This economic development will produce in excess of $1,500,000 per year in tax revenue, a majority of which would flow the schools. It is my hope that our courts begin strict application of laws versus engaging in legislative functions. I thank both the Kentucky League of Cities and our local legislators for being willing to consider helping in the fight." 

Kentucky League of Cities has already weighed in with support for the city. 

"Since this represents a legal precedent that could have a significant impact on cities throughout the state, KLC plans on supporting the appellate efforts of the city by participating as an amicus in the appeal and will work with the city in pursuit of any needed legislative clarifications," said James Chaney, executive director and CEO of the organization.
And, so, the fight over the former DAV property is not yet over. The city may appeal. In the meantime the school district will move forward with its plans.

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