By Laith Agha

Seaside officials are considering approval of the use of eminent domain for a hotel project promoted by a development group led by former baseball star Reggie Jackson.

But a citizens advisory group, which was selected in January to represent residents and businesses in the area near the project, says using eminent domain for a private development would be an abuse of power.

The Seaside City Council today will start deciding whether to renew its authority to use eminent domain to assist the hotel project proposed by RLJ Development LLC, Jackson’s group. The city’s power to do so ended last month, but the council could revive it by amending Seaside’s redevelopment plan.

A date for a final decision hasn’t been set.

Last week, the Project Area Committee voted 7-1 against the renewal of eminent domain powers in the project area. That means it would take a vote of at least four of the five council members, instead of a simple majority of three, to restore the eminent domain authority.

“I know the government likes it because they’re getting money, but this country is not built on taking away individual rights,” said Lawrence Samuels, chairman of the committee. “The ends do not justify the means. Most people think it’s unfair to take private land and give it to someone else to make a private profit.”

Samuels plans to deliver that message at tonight’s council meeting.

“I’m going to tell them what we thought, that it was a bad deal,” he said.

It’s likely the council will open the discussion today, but continue it until June 5 — two days after Californians vote on Propositions 98 and 99, two rival ballot measures that would limit local governments’ eminent domain powers.

A 2006 state law limits a city’s use of eminent domain to 12 years within a designated area. Seaside’s merged-project area, which covers 40 acres in the southwest portion of the city, was designated in 1996.

Within the area is the 5.7 acres targeted for a hotel and conference center proposed by Jackson’s development team.

The City Council approved an exclusive negotiating agreement last year with RLJ Development and Amador Hotel 44 to pursue the 252 room hotel complex at Del Monte and Canyon Del Rey boulevards.

The proposed hotel site has 17 residences, four businesses and a church that would have to be removed to make way for the project, either voluntarily or through eminent domain. Jackson owns about a half-acre of the site.

Monterey County Herald: