Local News

Durham Commissioners Considering Eminent Domain To Build Courthouse

Posted December 13, 2005

— Two Durham businesses have some extra time before they may be forced to move to make way for a new courthouse.

The county wants to build a new courthouse along South Roxboro Street and connect it to the jail. County leaders have been negotiating with Scarborough and Hargett, a funeral home business, along with an U-Haul business next door for years.

Skeepie Scarborough, whose family has deep roots in the Bull City, is not happy about a possible move.

"We've been here 105 years and worked hard," he said.

During that time, the government has forced the Scarborough family's funeral home business, Scarborough & Hargett, to move. In 1914, Scarborough said the funeral home was forced to move out of Durham's Five Points area.

Then, in 1968, urban renewal of the Hayti area once again forced the Scarboroughs to look elsewhere. Now, a third forced move may be on the horizon.

Without an agreed price, the county may force the issue. Scarborough calls the county's offer for both properties an insult.

Scarborough said they are offering the tax value of $1.9 million. He said it's not the fair market price.

"If they want it, pay the people for it. Don't mess around with political rhetoric," he said.

Commissioner Beck Heron disagrees Scarborough's assessment.

"We've had an appraisal done on the property. I feel like we're gonna be very fair," she said.

Heron said the county is looking at what's best for everyone. She insists taking land by eminent domain is a last resort.

"We don't like doing this, but it's in the best interest of the future of Durham County," she said.

Scarborough said it is about more than just money.

"To be dictated to, 'You have to move and this is all we're going to give you,' No, I don't sit too well with that," he said.

Durham County Commissioners deferred the plan until January. If commissioners vote to forcibly take the property, Scarborough said he will sue.

As for the courthouse, the county expects to break ground on the building in 2008. It could take three to four years to build.

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