The Clayton City Council declared properties in a prime downtown block blighted to make way for a proposed $210 million development by the Centene Plaza Redevelopment Corp. Property and businesses owners in the targeted area who refused to sell challenged the move, saying there is no evidence to support a conclusion the thriving area is blighted. State law requires a finding of blight before eminent domain can be used.
Attorneys for the property owners said land Centene purchased in the development area sold for $7.4 million an acre. They also noted the average home in Clayton costs $541,000 while household income averages $181,000 a year. Centene’s attorney said the city was within its rights to use eminent domain to maximize the economic productivity of the property. A skeptical Judge Richard Teitelman said: “If this area is declared blighted, I don’t know of any area in the state that couldn’t be declared blighted.”