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A Global decision: Broadway business owners say the city isn't fair
Owners of a local grocery store, Global Trading, are wondering whether all businesses are being treated equally by city hall in Cape Girardeau's Broadway widening project. City hall officials counter that they have altered their plans to accommodate the store and believe the process is a fair one.
The dispute will likely go to a jury trial in upcoming months.
Owners of Global Trading say they have been fighting for more than a year to prevent eminent domain use from putting them out of business. "It's really callous what they're doing here," said Belen Lichtenegger. "I just want the people to understand where their tax dollars are going."
In October 2004, Jerel and Belen Lichtenegger, owners of the ethnic foods grocery store at 1304 Broadway, were told the city needed their 6,648 square feet of property for its Broadway widening project. Initial plans called for the Lichteneggers' building and lot to be transformed into a parking lot for the nearby Hardee's, which is set to lose nine parking spots due to the widening.
"That's what really hurt us was when we realized they didn't want our lot for the street, they wanted it for Hardee's," said Jerel Lichtenegger. "Think about that, two private business owners next to each other and the city is taking one property to give it to the other one."
To date, the city has spent $266,000 in property acquisitions and will spend more in construction costs to provide parking for Hardee's.
"They take advantage of the little guy because he doesn't have the same influence as the big guy...there should be a formula for this," said Jerel Lichtenegger.
The city has since decided to leave the Global building intact.
In January 2005 the city offered $88,000 for the Global Trading property, which the couple has owned since 1988. The Lichteneggers refused the offer, saying they paid $72,000 for property in 1988 and saying they spent as much as $30,000 more the same year to repave the parking lot and bring the building up to code.
"That offer would barely cover our moving expenses," said Jerel Lichtenegger. "And to find another location for our type of business, and to get it up to code for that price...forget about it."
Planner Martha Brown, however, said the city treats everyone as fairly as possible and said, contrary to claims, moving expenses would be paid for by the city.
"Everybody has their own opinion as to the value of their own property," she said. "I have to rely on certified appraisers to tell me what the fair market value is. They determine it, and then we go from there."
Brown said giving extra spaces to Hardee's was the cheapest way to settle with the fast-food giant. Brown also said the low figure for the Global property was due to appraiser Bill Dockins' determination that, though up to code, it was not in good shape.
The house is an 80-year-old structure which was once home to Cape Girardeau lawyer Al Spradling, the grandfather of former Cape Girardeau mayor Al Spradling III.
The Lichteneggers, though, believed they were being railroaded. They said they saw evidence of unfairness when they were informed the property immediately to their west had been appraised at $145,000. The property was roughly 2,000 square feet smaller and a private residence, not a business.
Brown confirmed that the property at 1310 Broadway, which was bulldozed earlier this year, was acquired in full to provide parking for Hardee's. Brown said the property will only provide five spaces, though, because of an additional drive-in route.
The Lichteneggers said they did not want to become part of the parking lot. They contested the valuation of their building and petitioned the city to keep it. The city wrote back saying it would change its plans allowing the couple to keep their building in exchange for an agreement to cede the rights to 2,160 square feet in front of the store without compensation. This area is currently used by customers and a delivery truck for parking.
Brown wrote the Lichteneggers saying the city "went to great lengths to accommodate your request to leave the building." She said her office and the Lichteneggers had an oral agreement that if the building was spared they would cede the property. The Lichteneggers claim this agreement never happened and refused to cede the property saying it would ruin their business.
Meanwhile, to provide more parking for the Hardee's restaurant at 1330 Broadway owned by Han Kang, the city acquired a second property at 506 N. West End Blvd. at a cost of $121,000. This West End space is set to be the location of approximately 15 more parking spaces for the fast food restaurant, said Brown.
The Lichteneggers said they were further perturbed when the city announced it would build a 12-space lot west of Pagliai's Pizza to compensate the restaurant and other businesses on the south side of the street for the loss of on-street parking.
"All we want is parking," said Jerel Lichtenegger. "Why would the city work diligently to help meet the needs of one small business and not another? All we want is to be treated fairly."
Brown said the city did try to accommodate the Lichteneggers by offering to re-pave and strip five spots to the east of their store. "We try to replace the parking that we take, we're consistent on that" said Brown. "We offered to repave the whole side by Park Avene and re-stripe...that was part of the appraisal."
Jerel said while this offer was once talked about it has not resurfaced in recent talks.
Through condemnation proceedings in April, the Lichteneggers were awarded $74,300 by three independent commissioners for the front of the property. Attorneys for both sides are contesting this figure. The dispute seems headed to a jury trial.
"We don't want the money. We want the parking," said Belen Lichtenegger.
335-6611, extension 245