Archive for Thursday, December 1, 2005

Condemnation process continues for Main Street holdouts

December 1, 2005

There will be a showdown of sorts next week in the Lansing Community Center.

Seventeen Lansing landowners will meet three Leavenworth County District Court-appointed appraisers in a public hearing Wednesday, Dec. 7, to try to hammer out a mutually agreeable price for easements on their properties abutting Main Street.

The landowners are being sued by the state of Kansas for eminent-domain rights to the easements, which are necessary for the Main Street System Enhancement project.

The $11.3 million project will stretch from Gilman Road to Connie Street. Improve-ments include widening Main Street from Connie to Ida Street to include a center turn lane, rebuilding the bridge over 7-Mile Creek, reconstructing medians from Gilman Road to Ida Street and constructing a "reverse frontage road" north of West Mary Street to West Kansas Avenue. Construction is slated to begin in late spring or early summer of 2006, and is projected to take 18 months.

From a list of 81 tracts, the state has negotiated offers for all but those belonging to the 17 property owners. Rob Stork, operations manager for the Rights of Way Bureau of the Kansas Department of Transportation, said he expected to settle two or three of those appraisal disputes before the hearing.

The landowners who are holding out said the state hadn't offered enough for their property.

Earlier this month, the landowners met to pick three independent appraisers to figure the values of their properties for the state.

David Chartier has a unique position as one of the holdout property owners. He lives and works at 220 N. Main St. as a real estate appraiser and has been appointed by the state to appraise properties condemned for previous projects.

Chartier said there was never any reason to accept the state's initial offer, as the property owner is not liable for any court costs, and the property owner usually stands to get more money by using the court process.

Of those who didn't hold out, Chartier figured the word "'condemnation' scared them, I guess. The state people, they intimidate you, especially little old ladies," he said.

Chartier said there was little chance the appraisal by the independent court-appointed appraisers would undercut the original offer.

"It would be bad public relations. Property owners would be mad at you (the state and the appraisers)."

Chartier said one of the aspects of the process that most irked landowners was that the state didn't consult previous appraisals of the properties by other, local government agencies.

That's the case with Randy Asher, owner of Main Street Auto Body and Tow, and Main Street Motors, 212 and 214 Main St.

Asher said Leavenworth County assessed his property at $7.43 per square foot, while the state's offer was only $5 per square foot.

Asher was also miffed that the state didn't bother to make a second offer in response to his counteroffer, and straightaway sued him. He also complained that the state was going to narrow the curb entrance to his and two other businesses on the property from 32 feet to 16 feet.

Asher's brother, Danny, on the other hand, who owns Dasher Garage at 210 N. Main St., was only too happy to accept the state's first offer. Though it was the same per-square foot price as offered to Randy, Danny said the state also offered him about $14,000 for the construction of a driveway to a house that was since moved off the property.

"I told the state of Kansas I'm not going to (build the drive), and they said 'We don't care.'"

"I think it's insane," Danny Asher said. "They're treating people different up and down the strip."

Charles Hall and his wife, Barbara, own half of a lot on the property where Charles' son, Jonathan Hall, resides. Charles, his son and wife were holding out for more from the state because just seven years ago, he said, the city paid $7 per square foot for easements when West Mary Street was built.

After the hearing and a visual inspection of each holdout owner's property, the next step in the eminent domain process for the Main Street easements will be the filing of the appraisers' reports to the Leavenworth County District Court clerk, said Eldon Shields, attorney for the state in the suit. The reports will dictate what amount the state must pay each property owner. Once the checks are made, the title for each easement will automatically go to the state.

While the property owner or the state will still have 30 days to appeal the price, the state may immediately begin construction on the Main Street Enhancement Project, and the property owner is free to use cash the check toward his legal expenses for appeal, with one caveat: A refund may be due the state.

Shields said he'd known of a case where a Wyandotte County businessman appealed the final appraised price on his property to have it decided in a district court jury trial, after already cashing the check for $2 million. The jury decided the property was worth $750,000, and the state is still trying to collect on the difference, Shields said.

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