When the city-owned Omni Hotel had its grand-opening photo op the other day, everything seemed in place, right down to the giant ribbon and the past-due TV stars. But there's one little speck of cement that the city's still fighting over -- and its sparring partner isn't going down easily.
The story's been well told thus far by The News and WFAA: The parcel in question, 2,500 square feet of cement near the hotel, was owned long ago by a woman named Hazel McClain. In the 1980s, former mayor Robert Folsom started snapping up land in the area, and he wanted McClain's piece, too. For whatever reason she wouldn't sell, but she did agree to lease it to him -- for 99 years.
Now the city wants it, and it's trying to take it through eminent domain. McClain is dead, but her daughter Carolyn apparently learned to dig in her heels like Mom. She's fighting the city at every turn, and for good reason: The lease has reportedly paid her family $800,000 over its life, including $40,000 last year alone. She claims the land is now worth $2.5 million.
The News has reported that there's a clause that would allow Folsom out of the deal, but for whatever reason he's never acted on it. But that clause seems to be driving the offers McClain is getting: The city offered $300,000. When McClain turned that down, a panel of three court-appointed commissioners told the city it should pay even less: $182,000. The city promptly cut a check and took down the fence surrounding the property.
But that's not the end of it: As I spoke yesterday with McClain's lawyer, Jim McCown, he had a courier delivering to the courthouse the document on display below, which outlines McClain's many objections to the ruling. It calls the city's offer "grossly inadequate" and claims the city has no right to take it anyway, since the project isn't for the public good.
McCown said he hopes the two sides can continue negotiating on their own. If they don't make progress, the legal process takes over, and lots of both your money and McClain's disappears into the finely pressed pockets of various lawyers.
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Although there is another solution: Twenty-five-hundred square feet sounds like enough room for a bunch of homeless revolutionaries, does it not?