UPDATE: Displaced Man Regrets Ignorance of Eminent Domain

Sunday, June 4, 2006

Last month, the D.C. government tore down Ken Wyban's house.

Wyban was not in town to watch, but a friend sent him a picture. The five-bedroom red-brick Civil War-era home in Southeast Washington that he had purchased in 1998 -- and was restoring when the city took it as part of a plan to build a new baseball stadium -- has been turned into a pile of rubble.

"I was probably foolish for thinking there may have been a chance that they would use it as a historical museum as part of the new stadium," Wyban, 56, wrote in an e-mail last week from Riverview, Fla., near Tampa, where he rents an apartment near his mother's home.

As District contractors move quickly to clear a 20-acre site near South Capitol Street and the Navy Yard along the Anacostia River, the people who owned properties at the site have moved on -- some having sold to the city and others forced out by eminent domain. Several cases are tied up in court to determine how much money the District must pay the property owners.

Perhaps no one put a human face on the process as much as Wyban, who was the only person who owned a house at the site and lived there full time. Before leaving Washington on Feb. 3, Wyban agreed not to take the District to court in return for being allowed to collect the $1.2 million offered by the city and to have his attorney continue negotiating with the city for more money. He said he has yet to receive the money.

These days, Wyban, who retired from the military years ago, is caring for his mother, who has lung cancer. And he is seeking to do volunteer work, he said, as he once did for the United Service Organizations at Reagan National Airport.

"I would have done many things different now that I am more educated in eminent domain," said Wyban, who plans to return to Washington in the fall to help organize the Army Ten-Miler. "I'm sure the city would have done things different with Major League Baseball now that they know the rest of the story. I guess we both lost large sums of money because of our ignorance."

-- David Nakamura

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