TO: Mayor and Town Council
FROM: W. Calvin Horton, Town Manager
SUBJECT: Response to Petition from Downtown Economic Development Corporation Regarding Wicked Burrito Property
DATE: April 5, 2005
The purpose of this report is to respond to a petition from the Downtown Economic Development Corporation regarding the Wicked Burrito property on West Franklin Street. The Town’s Inspections Department is enforcing applicable codes at the site and the owner is making repairs to the property, both exterior and interior. We recommend that the Council take no action.
On February 14, 2005, the Chapel Hill Downtown Economic Development Corporation submitted a petition asking the Town Council to “consider condemnation procedures with respect to the Wicked Burrito property located on West Franklin Street.” A copy of the petition is provided as Attachment 1.
Attachment 2 is a memorandum from the Town Attorney to the Town Manager dated March 25, 2005, in which the Town Attorney reviews the power of the Town to acquire property using eminent domain or to force a property owner to secure or demolish a structure that is deteriorated to the point of being unsafe.
We agree with the Attorney that there is not a basis for acquiring the Wicked Burrito property using eminent domain.
Attachment 3 is a report from the Inspections Director outlining the work being done to enforce applicable building codes at the subject property. The property owner has committed to making needed repairs on a timely basis and has accomplished substantial repairs as of this writing.
We believe that the Wicked Burrito property soon will be in compliance with applicable building codes, and that there is no basis for using the power of eminent domain to force the owner to sell the property to the Town. The Town has not previously determined that it needs the property for a public use and cannot compel the sale of the property for economic development, based on existing authority.
We understand and agree with the Downtown Economic Development Corporation’s desire that the Wicked Burrito property become a useful asset in the downtown. Please see Attachment 4, letter from Town Manager to Jamie B. Coulter, Chief Executive Officer of Lone Star Steakhouse & Saloon, Inc., the owner of the property. However, we believe that the property owner cannot be compelled to install a tenant or operate a business in the property.
We recommend that the Council take no action. Town staff will continue to monitor the property for code compliance; and the Town Manager will continue efforts to encourage beneficial occupancy of the property.