St. Paul Port Authority Won’t Take Property by Eminent Domain

J. Justin Wilson
J. Justin Wilson · June 10, 2009

St. Paul, Minn.—In one of Minnesota’s most hotly contested battles over eminent domain, St. Paul-based Advance Shoring Company is now safe from condemnation by the St. Paul Port Authority.  Following stiff opposition from the nearly 50-year-old company, its employees, unions and the Institute for Justice—a public interest law firm that battles eminent domain abuse nationwide—the Port Authority decided not to use eminent domain to take the company’s property.

“I’m breathing a sigh of relief for our business and employees,” said Karen Haug, CEO of Advance Shoring Company who met with the Port Authority’s president yesterday.  “Since the early 1990’s, the Port Authority has planned to take our property for someone else’s private use.  We’ve lived under the threat of eminent domain for nearly 20 years.  I’m thrilled the Port Authority has decided not to use its power of condemnation to take our property.  Now we can return to running our business.”

For the past 50 years, Advance has built its equipment-leasing business without government subsidies.  Its 43 employees, 20 of whom are members of Local 120 of the Teamsters and Local 49 of the Operating Engineers, provide cranes, scaffolding and shoring equipment to construction projects.  Advance has played an instrumental role in constructing and restoring of landmarks in the Twin Cities, including the Xcel Energy Center, the Cathedral of St. Paul and Regions Hospital.  “You cannot look at St. Paul’s skyline without seeing the contribution that our family business has made,” Haug added.

Last September, the Port Authority stated its intention to acquire by eminent domain 10 acres of Advance’s property near Interstate 35E and Maryland Avenue in the Arlington-Jackson section of St. Paul.  In October and November, Advance’s owners and allies asked the City Council not to authorize the Port Authority’s plan to destroy this successful business for a yet-to-be-identified business and an unspecific use requiring more than $10 million in government subsidies.

Based on Advance’s testimony, the City Council stopped a possible condemnation last year and asked that the Port Authority negotiate with Advance.  In November, at the Port Authority’s request, Advance entered into an agreement that gave the Port Authority an opportunity to provide Advance with potential relocation sites.  In February, the Port Authority gave Advance a list of sites with some as far away as St. Cloud—more than 75 miles away from its prime location in St. Paul—and none of which met Advance’s needs or were immediately available.   

Yesterday, the Port Authority met with Advance and advised Haug that it has dropped all plans to take the company’s property.

“I applaud the Port Authority’s decision, but city officials must recognize that the Port Authority’s past uses of eminent domain are now illegal under Minnesota’s 2006 reforms,” said IJ Minnesota Chapter Executive Director Lee McGrath.  “It is time for the City Council to strip the Port Authority of its power to use eminent domain.  The days of government taking private property for someone else’s private economic gain are over.”