Church Leaders Speak Out About Eminent Domain

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Dozens of property owners could be forced to relocate to make way for a city project, and one church in particular feels its being steam rolled; in the name of eminent domain. The City of Des Moines wants to buy nearly 60 properties to expand its Municipal Service Center. The land the city wants to buy to complete the project is on the city's south-side. It includes some 19 acres bordered by SE 15th Street, Maury Street and Scott Avenue, where homes, businesses, and a church are currently located.

At Monday Night's city council meeting, property owners like Dale Jones, who would be impacted by the project, tried to get answers. "I think we`re all kind of curious about how long this project`s going to take...is this a fast project, is this a slow project...can we get an update on what`s going on here?"

City Manager Scott Sanders replied: "So, we have it budgeted for land acquisition, so as soon as the process allows and there are quite a few steps within the process, but as soon as we can get to a resolution of purchasing your property it would happen that quickly. So, it could be a matter of months if that all works out."

Jordan Rabon, Pastor of King of Kings Missionary Baptist Church, at 619 SE 15th St., says having to relocate would be an inconvenience for his congregation.

"We don`t want to relocate to another side of town. People are comfortable coming to this side of town, expect King of Kings to be on this side of town because we`ve been on the south-side since 1980."

Jamel Kirby, the church's business manager, says it's going to be tough to come out on top on on this one. "Even if we receive a fair market value for the church, it`s going to create debt for the church, because whatever figure we get for the church, all we`re going to get is the same thing in return...
it`s hard on a small church to be forced to move and have debt created because of that," said Kirby.

Kirby says there's too much ambiguity from city leaders and without specifics it's impossible to be proactive, so the future of the church remains uncertain.

"It`s just like if you`re looking for a home and you`re going to sell your home, well, you really can`t do anything until you know what you`re going to get for your home and when your home`s going to sell, so we`re kind of caught at the mercy of the city on this situation."