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Clinton Library Gets Go-Ahead

The Arkansas Supreme Court upheld the city's method of seizing land for the Clinton Presidential Library on Thursday, eliminating the last legal roadblock in the way of construction.

The court, in a 6-0 decision with one abstention, said a Little Rock landowner failed to prove that the $200 million library and archive complex wouldn't be a park as the state defines it.

The head of the Clinton Presidential Foundation said the dispute over Eugene Pfeifer III's land had been the only thing delaying construction of the 28-acre site on the south bank of the Arkansas River.

"I'm shocked," Pfeifer said. "This is truly disappointing news."

A decision against the city could have forced the foundation to find another site for his planned academic center and museum.

The city claimed Pfeifer's land under the right of eminent domain after former President Clinton hand-picked the site. Pfeifer rejected a $400,000 offer for his property that he has acknowledged was fair.

Pfeifer appealed to the Supreme Court after a judge last November rejected his claim that the project did not meet the definition of a park, the premise on which the city claimed his property.

Pfeifer said Thursday that his fight with the city was prompted over how it financed the land acquisition. The city sold $11.5 million in bonds to purchase the library property, and to repay them, pledged revenues from city parks and the zoo, which had just lost its license and accreditation.

"Our city could not afford to pay for this project. The foundation could have financed it by raising the money privately," Pfeifer said.

Foundation president Skip Rutherford said last week that a favorable ruling could bring about a groundbreaking by year's end.

The former president was governor here for 12 years and also lived in Hope, Hot Springs and Fayetteville.

Justice Annabelle Clinton Imber, a distant relative of the former president, abstained from Thursday's decision.

By James Jefferson
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