City, business owner at odds over tract of land sought for redevelopment

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NORTH KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Public officials in North Kansas City say they have a big goal, but one business owner is standing in the way. The city council has declared eminent domain in an attempt to purchase some land with hopes of attracting new commercial development.

Specifically speaking, it's a Burger King restaurant on Armour Road near North Kansas City Hospital in question.

The owner of the Burger King also operates four other fast food restaurants, most of which are in the Northland. Todd Gilbertson has been at it for 35 years and says the restaurant, and its property, are valuable to him. He won't give them up without a fight.

“The land itself is not blighted. Our property is not blighted. The land around it is blighted, and they want to do a redevelopment,” Gilbertson said.

Gilbertson says the redevelopment plans come as a kick in the gut to him, especially after city officials made him a cash offer for the property last year that he felt was a low offer.

“We don't feel it was a fair sum. They offered about a third of what the property is really worth,” he said. “There was nothing actually offered for the business itself. Just the land and the building.”

Gilbertson has already won disputes with the city twice in court, both at the local level and in the Missouri Court of Appeals.

But city councilman Mark Conarroe disagrees with Gilbertson about the offers made. He says the city has attempted to negotiate a fair price with Gilbertson. He also says the city could develop that land and attract business from residents across the river.

“We see that 56 acres of land as very unique, especially within North Kansas City,” Conarroe said. “That area is on the cusp of being revitalized and we're very excited about that.”

Conarroe said the city razed two abandoned grain elevators on the property and recently went as far as to reclaim an old EPA dump site as well, in hopes of making the land new again.

Gilbertson says he's willing to remodel and do what it takes to fit into the city's plans for the redevelopment. Conarroe says the city has employed a developer for the project.

Both parties say they'd like to see this dispute settled before the case hits the Missouri Supreme Court.

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