by Dawn Feddersen-Poindexter
Otsego City Council members received an update on right-of-way negotiations with property owners affected by the 70th Street expansion project at their regular meeting on March 24.
City Attorney Andrew MacArthur told the council that the owners of the 20 parcels requiring right-of-way acquisition have received written offers. Most acquisitions are either completed or in active negotiations.
The council granted approval to exercise eminent domain for any deal that has not been completed by the April 15 deadline. Eminent domain is a process by which a government entity can force the acquisition of property, with proper compensation, for public use.
Council Member Vern Heidner clarified the potential use of eminent domain.
“Sometimes people hear the words ‘eminent domain’ and they get antsy,” he said. “In many cases, property owners want us to do eminent domain because of the tax breaks they can get.”
MacArthur backed up Heidner’s statement, saying that he always explains to property owners that they could potentially get tax breaks because the eminent domain process involves the threat of condemnation. He said he has worked with many people who had no problems selling some right of way along their property who chose to go through the eminent domain process for tax purposes.
Though the deadline is not for several weeks, MacArthur expects that only one or two of the property owners will go through the eminent domain process.
Because of this process, unexpected noise studies and other complications, the project will not be able to bid for contractors until mid-September, nearly a year later than the council had hoped in the project’s initial stages.
“Even with all the delays, we’re still a year and a half ahead of the federal state aid timeline,” City Engineer Ron Wagner told the council.
The council scheduled a meeting for 5:30-6:30 p.m. April 14 to discuss the project’s timeline with property owners. Those affected by the project will receive mailed notices.