After negotiations slowed to buy property in the path of the Barker Road separation project, the Spokane Valley City Council voted Tuesday to allow staff to condemn property if no deal is reached with the owners.
The city has already secured almost $25 million in grants and federal and state funding for the project, which would build a roundabout and replace a rail crossing with an overpass at the intersection of Barker and Trent Avenue.
The ordinance gives staff the option to sue and condemn land if a deal with property owners is not reached. The city would still pay fair market deal for the land, even if it were condemned, City Attorney Cary Driskell said.
Driskell said the ordinance adopted Tuesday didn’t mean negotiations were over and that, even if the city takes legal action against property owners, they could still negotiate and work with the city. He said eight of the 16 properties needed for the project had run into issues.
“Even if we file suit, we’ll still continue to negotiate,” Driskell said.
This is the first time Spokane Valley has moved toward condemning property, he said.
Every council member voted in support of the ordinance during Tuesday’s council meeting, with council members Ben Wick and Arne Woodard saying the city risked losing 10 years of work and millions in state and federal money if there are delays in the project.
“It’ll be very hard to get those tax dollars back,” Woodard said.
The properties in negotiations over the plan include Highland Estates, a 100-home subdivision near the project. Developers behind the subdivision have pushed back against the project and spoke against the ordinance at Tuesday’s meeting.
Jack Kestell, a real estate agent who developed Highland Estates, said he supported the project but argued the lack of connection between the roundabout and Highland remains an issue.
Wick said the project has been designed so a fourth leg leading to the subdivision is still possible, but that Spokane Valley does not currently have the funding to add it.
The properties that could be subject to condemnation range from small parcels worth a few hundred dollars to 100-acre parcels assessed at more than $170,000.
Several other community members also spoke out against the council’s decision, saying it was an overreach or that they hadn’t been offered close to what they invested in their land.
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