Archive for Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Residents question Monticello moves

Bob Hamlett says plans for the Monticello Road expansion would wipe out a sweet gum tree in his front yard that he planted with his daughter 35 years ago.

Bob Hamlett says plans for the Monticello Road expansion would wipe out a sweet gum tree in his front yard that he planted with his daughter 35 years ago.

August 20, 2008

Some residents along Monticello Road say the city didn't even try to answer their questions before it began condemnation proceedings for right-of-way to widen the road south of Shawnee Mission Parkway.

Residents have reported they never received answers to questions concerning the land the city would take and were never notified condemnation would be discussed.

Paul Lindstrom, city project engineer, said the residents on the road had been informed about the right-of-way acquisition process since it began and had been told if the city's offers were not accepted, the condemnation process could begin.

"The original offer letter had a deadline and it did not indicate when we would start condemnation, but that is not a requirement," he said.

The Shawnee City Council last week approved beginning the condemnation process. City staff members told the Council that offer letters were mailed to the property owners June 19, but only 12 of the 49 were returned. One resident spoke in opposition, saying he wanted to know exactly where the Southern Star natural gas pipeline running along the road would be relocated before he could agree to the city's offer.

Lindstrom said the pipeline situation should be finalized in a month, and it would take about two months to even take the first step in the condemnation process, so residents still had time to agree to work with the city's first offer.

Bob Hamlett, who lives in the 6900 block of the road, said he hasn't agreed to the city's offer for two reasons.

First, when the appraisers came out to his property, he had asked a city official with the appraisers to have them itemize the appraisal so he could see how much the city would pay him per square foot. The city official said this would be fine.

He said he also has a letter from the Kansas Department of Transportation telling him not to settle for easements until the city finalizes an agreement to relocate the Southern Star pipeline.

When Hamlett received his offer letter from the city, however, the offer was not itemized. So he sent a letter back asking about the per-square-foot cost, and asking about the pipeline.

"I got no response, and all the neighbors that I talked to, they got no response," he said. "And they were easy questions that I had."

Shawnee City Council member Michelle Distler said she has heard the same from eight other residents.

Lindstrom said everybody seemed to have questions about Southern Star, but he didn't have answers to give them yet. He said the city has been trying to address the pipeline question as a group rather than individually.

"Everybody has a theory that because of the relocation, the value of their property is going to change, and we don't agree," Lindstrom said. ": I've not gotten any indication from any appraiser that that is the case."

Hamlett said residents only learned about the condemnation being on the Council's agenda last week because someone happened to see the agenda on the day of the meeting, but many didn't go to make their complaints because they didn't think it would make a difference.

"We've known all along we were wasting our time going to the Council meeting," he said. "It was a done deal, and we all know that. I think that's what makes people the most angry, they've got no say in their own property."

Lindstrom said the residents have had several opportunities to meet with the city about their concerns since the appraisal process began. He said he sent a second letter out to residents, letting them know they could set up a meeting with him to ask him specific questions. But Lindstrom said he received no response.

The stress of the road project also has affected some homeowners' health, said Hamlett, who said he hoped others realized it's "not just money and land and homes; there's a human side to it." He himself had a heart attack a month ago, and two other neighbors have also had heart attacks this year.

"It's just a worry you have to live with for two years so far," he said. "We're not angry, mean people. We may sound like it sometimes, but we're kind of speaking out of frustration, and we're speaking for the ones who can't speak."

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