With City Attorney Steve Kemp in the midst of preparing papers that would allow the City of Peoria to condemn 30 acres of the Rovey Dairy land near 79th and Northern avenues to make way for a water reclamation plant, the Rovey family is preparing to do battle in court. But first, the dairy ranchers are attempting to help a bill that would severely limit cities' powers of eminent domain.

Paul Rovey testified before a House Committee Feb. 19 in support of House Bill 2308 dealing with eminent domain and limitation of the condemnation of private land. Rovey gave his support to the bill and told the committee the City of Peoria is abusing its rights to condemn private property.

Rovey is fighting to block the condemnation of his land by Peoria so that a wastewater treatment facility could be constructed.

"If Peoria condemns and takes our land, it will cause enormous hardship to our business and has the potential to force us to close our dairy operation," Rovey said in testimony, "We use this land to grow crops and feed our dairy cattle … this land is critically important to our business. This is just not fair."

Rovey referred to this type of action as "Un-American."

The Rovey family maintains the Rovey Dairy land the City is attempting to condemn lies outside City limits and is one of at least four possible sites the City has considered for the wastewater plant. The Roveys said at least three other landowners indicated a willingness to sell, but the City decided against purchasing those sites and focused its efforts on the Rovey land parcel.

Rovey said he urged the Legislature to rein in cities' ability to take private property through condemnation.

Rovey said, "If this bill fails, maybe you should look very hard at cutting (the cities) funds. Then maybe, they will pay attention to the rights of the people who pay the taxes that run our cities and provide the lofty perches these folks sleep on."

Rovey plans to continue to fight against the City to block the condemnation.

House Majority Leader Eddie Farnsworth (R-Gilbert), said the eminent domain bill now goes to caucus and then before the House for a vote. Farnsworth said the Roveys were concerned about government being reasonable.

"The City of Peoria had done a study and identified four particular properties better than the Rovey place," Farnsworth said. "It is my understanding they're taking a piece of property n talking about putting it in the middle of the farm. If that's the case, that's outrageous."

Taking the property out of the middle of the dairy farm means what is left is less valuable and it also hurts the operation of the dairy business, Farnsworth said.

"This is just another ridiculous instance where government gives no consideration to private property owners," Farnsworth said.

There were planners from Phoenix who stood up and told about pieces of property condemned by the city that lie vacant and were never used for the purposes outlined in the condemnation process, Farnsworth said.

Francis "Buzz" Slavin said neither the Metzes (Beverly Rovey Metz and her husband, owners of the 30 acres planned for condemnation) nor Paul Rovey (a co-owner of the property) had been served as of Tuesday. Slavin said he is not in a position to accept service of the condemnation notice, and the Metzes live in Oklahoma, which could account for the legal notification process taking so long.

Slavin said the parcel the City plans to condemn is on the edge of the Rovey holdings, not in the middle as had been rumored. But, that does not change the situation for the Roveys, Slavin said.

"It's very significant, whether it's the middle or the edge," Slavin said. "It's all being used for the dairy."

Slavin said he does not think anything in the eminent domain bill winding its way through the state House "applies to the Roveys at this time." However, amendments could be attached to the bill at some point that could affect the Roveys, Slavin said.

The City of Peoria plans to move ahead with condemnation procedures. In a letter to the editor in today's issue of the Peoria Times, Mayor John Keegan talks about the fairness of the process used by the City. (See Letters, page A6)

"In the final analysis," Keegan wrote, "the parcel of land selected received the highest rating utilizing the criteria developed by the Community Working Group. In other words, it was concluded that the public interest was best served by acquisition of this particular property for a future reclamation plant."

Slavin said there is a section of the Arizona statutes that deals with balancing private property rights with public good.

"The thing that continues to stymie the Roveys is the parcel due north," Slavin said.

That particular parcel has a willing seller but the City has maintained the Rovey property represents a better location because of its distance from the Roundtree Ranch residential subdivision north of Olive Avenue west of 79th Avenue.

"We think that's relevant here," Slavin said. "It's going to be something that's going to be in the lawsuit."

Slavin appeared confident the Roveys would have their day in court.

"The judge gets to decide whether condemnation goes forward on the Rovey property," Slavin said.

For more information from the Rovey family regarding this battle, visit www.milknot sewage.com.