By Wesley Brown
Friday, September 28, 2012
Deana Lewis and her parents, Jim and Elaine Hannan, felt at ease on Thursday when they left a small group meeting at the Greenville Public Works Department held to bring the public up to speed on the 10th Street Connector.
Although the family will lose a Dickinson Avenue commercial warehouse for the construction of a four-lane highway between East Carolina University and Vidant Medical Center, they now know when it will happen and how much they will receive for the property.
Representatives from TELICS, the subcontractor helping the N.C. Department of Transportation negotiate right-of-way settlements for the highway project, met with close to 40 people like the Hannans.
Representatives marked the route of the road on maps, explained the acquisition process and exchanged contact information, gestures that simplified a state buyout that in recent months has caused some confusion among area residents.
“This was very informative and helpful,” said Lewis, whose parents lease business property at 1800 Dickinson Ave., the site of a former Harley Davidson dealership. “While it is a sad situation, I think they are going to work with us and make process easier.”
Starting at Memorial Drive, with improvements ending at 10th and Evans streets, the new 1.4-mile stretch of highway will widen Farmville Boulevard before crossing a residential neighborhood and rising into a bridge over the railroad tracks at Dickinson Avenue, DOT maps show.
An estimated $27 million will go toward the state buyout for part or all of 190 properties, with another $22 million set aside for construction in December 2014, when bulldozers begin to pave from Evans Street to Memorial Drive.
But public utility easements added to the project in the last nine months have caused some unrest among people with property in the connector’s path.
Close to 50 landowners have sought the advice of an eminent domain lawyer.
Ed Lewis, of the DOT’s Project Development and Environmental Analysis Branch, on Thursday cautioned the public about seeking legal advice, saying such action could add 12 to 24 months to the land-acquisition process.
“I would not immediately go out and hire an attorney because the DOT and its contractors are really good about explaining the right-of-way acquisition and relocation process,” said Lewis, adding that less than 1 percent of all settlements handled by the DOT are contested in court.
Lewis said the DOT’s fair-market-value appraisals are being checked against federal standards and state guidelines for accuracy and consistency.
In the next year, the DOT is expected present offers, negotiate settlements and close on estates.
Taylor Keith, the project manager for TELICS, was impressed by Thursday’s turnout and felt confident everyone left well informed about the project’s right-of-way acquisition.
“Everybody we talked to seemed to have a good grasp on the project,” Keith said. “We are always ready and willing to help.”
Oscar Holloman said he still had some questions about the utility easements surrounding property he owns on 14th Street and Farmville Boulevard.
“It’s all comes down to dollars and cents,” Holloman. “All government projects are slow. They don’t speed up on anything except when they want your taxes.”
Contact Wesley Brown at 252-329-9579 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @CityWatchdog
via The Daily Reflector.