$2.9M project

The clock is ticking for the city of Marietta to obtain title for rights of entry to six properties along the Seventh, Pike and Greene streets intersection where a $2.9 million traffic and pedestrian safety upgrade project is slated to begin this spring.

“Two of the property owners have signed agreements with the city. Four have not, but we’re still in the middle of negotiations for those properties,” city law director Paul Bertram III said Tuesday.

The six parcels include Apex True Value at 600 Greene St.; Captain D’s, 104 Pike St.; Food 4 Less, 110 S. Seventh St.; Marietta College, Seventh and Greene streets; Qdoba, Seventh and Pike streets; and Sheila’s Hair Shoppe and Tanning, 109 Pike St.

Bertram said all six have agreed to provide the city with rights of entry but only two, Food 4 Less and Apex True Value, have officially accepted the city’s offer for the rights of way to their properties.

Notices were sent from the city to the six property owners at the end of October and first of November, offering fair market value for the rights of entry. Bertram said by law the city has to make a fair market value offer for those properties.

“That starts the process of negotiation to determine a final amount acceptable for the city and the property owners,” Bertram said. “The owners often have their own appraisals done and we may make a counter offer until we reach an agreement. But all offers have to be cleared by the Ohio Department of Transportation.”

He said that’s required because funding for the right of entry purchases comes out of the intersection project budget, funded by state and federal monies. After researching the estimated fair market value for the properties, a total $227,700 was set aside from the project budget to pay for rights of entry to the properties.

City engineer Joe Tucker said final agreements with Marietta College and Qdoba are close to being completed, while negotiations on a final price are continuing with Captain D’s and Sheila’s Hair Shoppe.

“We’re hoping there will also be a settlement soon with those property owners,” Tucker said.

The amounts being offered for each right of entry have not been released because negotiations with all six entities have not been completed.

Tucker said by Dec. 16 the city had obtained initial right of entry agreements from the six property owners which would allow work to begin on the properties while fair market price negotiations continue.

“We cleared our right of way access with all six properties last month, and we have complete control for rights of entry” he said. “But we can’t slack off the price negotiations. We don’t want to have to go to court with anyone over this issue.”

As long as progress is being made the city will continue negotiating with the property owners, but Bertram said at some point the parties will reach a stalemate.

“We can’t let this drag on forever, and we want to work this out with the property owners. And as property owners they’re entitled to seek an amount they believe is fair for the city’s right of entry,” he said. “But if we can’t reach an agreement council will have to start eminent domain proceedings.”

If that occurs Bertram said the fair market value amount being offered by the city would be appropriated and placed in an account to be held by the court until the eminent domain proceedings are completed. He said the city prefers not to take such action, but by law the city has to have deeds in hand for all six rights of entry parcels for the official records.

“We’re prepared to file with the court if necessary, but as long as progress is being made we’ll continue to negotiate with the property owners,” Tucker said.

The current schedule for the Seventh, Pike and Greene streets intersection project includes an estimated start of construction on May 19, and completion of the project by Dec. 19.