The Board of Regents approved WKU’s motion to purchase the property of the Chi Omega sorority house on April 26. This will allow the university to continue construction plans for the new Honors College and International Center, which will be located on Normal Drive.
This property is currently owned by the Chi Theta Housing Corporation.
WKU is now approved to make a financial agreement with Chi Theta in order to purchase the property for $240,000. Funding for the purchase of this property will be from agency bond funds that have been dedicated to this construction project.
Howard Bailey, vice president for Student Affairs, said the university would like to have possession of the property by the end of the fall semester, but an official purchase date has not been set.
“It is our desire to buy the Chi Omega property, which includes the house and adjoining empty lot,” he said.
An official agreement between WKU and the Chi Theta Housing Corporation has not yet been put into writing. The sorority, however, is touring houses, specifically along Chestnut Street, to relocate to.
The Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity, whose house is also on Normal Drive, has already signed a formal agreement with WKU. They will relocate to Cherry Hill Place and their current house will be demolished during the summer.
After the house is gone, a temporary parking lot will be opened in its place. Construction will close the gravel lot on Kentucky Street, and this lot will temporarily take its place. Bailey said the lot will most likely be student parking, as the lot that is being closed is currently for student parking.
At the Board of Regents meeting, it was also approved that the university can take possession of the property of an apartment complex on Normal Drive by eminent domain.
Deborah Wilkins, general counsel and chief of staff at WKU, said this means the university can exercise eminent domain and condemn the property to use it for public use.
However, the goal is to come to an agreement with the property owners, rather than having to go through that process, she said.
“We’re still in negotiations with the owners and they’re in the process of getting the properties appraised, so there is a possibility we will be able to come to an agreement and buy it,” Wilkins said.
She said they decided to get authorization now for eminent domain just in case, to make sure it would be possible if necessary within the given time frame.
“If we can’t agree, what happens is we file — the university files — a civil suit that actually condemns the property and we just have to state that we’ll use it for public purpose and of course, that’s an academic building,” she said.
While the landowners can contest it by saying they don’t think it’s a legitimate public use, she thinks that is unlikely, because the landowners wouldn’t win, it would just slow down the process.
The only thing that would be litigated if the university uses eminent domain is how much the value of the property is, Wilkins said.
As far as breaking ground on the new Honors College and International Center, there has yet to be an official date set.
“We’re in the midst of architectural drawings and things of that nature,” Bailey said. “So you really can’t set a break ground date until you know specifically what the building will look like. We do have some concepts.”