A year from now, city of Lacey officials hope to be well under way on a $6.3 million roundabout at College Street Southeast and 22nd Avenue, the first phase of the city’s much larger plans to widen College Street from Lacey Boulevard to 37th Avenue Southeast.
The city has been working to acquire adjacent property for the roundabout project since 2013, but has been unable to reach agreement with property owners on seven parcels. That led council in August to authorize the use of eminent domain.
Eminent domain is defined as the right of the government to take, or to authorize the taking of, private property for public use, with just compensation being given to the owner.
City Attorney Dave Schneider said he expects to file a petition in Thurston County Superior Court next week, which will outline property details and include the ordinance that the council voted on to authorize eminent domain.
If the process advances, the city will make its arguments about acquiring the property for a public purpose, Schneider said. Ultimately, the case could have a bench or jury trial, with either a judge or jury determining the value of the parcels. Schneider said the parcels have been appraised and appraisal data will be shared with the court.
Schneider emphasized that eminent domain is just a process and that he will continue to negotiate with property owners. Of the seven parcels, he said he is close to reaching agreement on two of them.
“It does not stop negotiations and it doesn’t mean that negotiations are acrimonious,” he said. “It’s the process.”
Although compensation largely is a sticking point for property owners, there also are some other complicating factors, Schneider said. A bank foreclosed on one of the parcels, and another is owned by a limited liability company, which means there is more than one owner. Some, too, have tenants on a parcel, while others are concerned about the development of the property after it is acquired, he said.
One of the parcels was recently purchased, so Schneider said he is starting negotiations with someone new.
Despite the ongoing negotiations and the parallel eminent domain process, Schneider is hopeful about the outcome.
“I think it’s realistic that we will be under construction in summer 2018,” he said.