Street construction project delayed

City still negotiating for property for Industrial Avenue extension

Despite an August ruling that gave the city possession of two Stout Street lots that will allow the extension of Industrial Avenue, construction -- as well as negotiations -- have been delayed.

Now, work to extend Industrial Avenue to provide drivers with an alternative to Victory Way and ease traffic will not begin until next spring.

In August, a cause that some say was more than10 years in the making went to court. The city faced off against Stout Street property owner Sandra Baird in an effort to claim four of her lots by right of eminent domain. Her lots are crucial to the extension of the street. Moffat County Court Judge Mary Lynne James agreed the city demonstrated a need for two of the four lots and awarded those lots to the city.

The appraised value of the two lots was around $10,000. James asked the city to pay $50,000 -- the value of the land plus what Baird might be entitled to for her trouble.

Now, the city and Baird are negotiating exactly what Baird is entitled to for her trouble.

Baird is arguing that the city's indecision about extending Industrial Avenue, which has lasted more than 10 years, has unfairly limited her use of the property. She claims this should entitle her to a cash settlement for the money she put into upgrades and the fact that those upgrades could not be finished and she couldn't make use of the lot because she was told to expect condemnation at any time.

Since the Aug. 7 hearing, former City Attorney Sherman Romney has met with Baird's attorney once, but negotiations have faltered because an added wrench has been thrown into the city's plans.

To extend Industrial Avenue, the city had also hoped that Stout Street property owner Tony Herrera and his brother would move a house they own that would be within five feet of the sidewalk once construction on the new street was completed. Negotiations with the Herreras entail the cost of moving the house. Romney said the city has offered the Herreras the appraised value of the house, but that they want enough money to move the house and the appraised value doesn't cover that.

Judge James' August ruling was that the city could only take the property it needed, hence her decision to give the city only two of Baird's four lots, despite the city's argument that more distance was needed between the houses and the street for safety.

The effect of that ruling has slowed negotiations on the Herrera property because the city now has no legal recourse -- the right to take the property by eminent domain.

Officials are still considering whether to go ahead with the street extension and leave the Herrera house close to the street or whether to continue negotiations for the house.

"It's just gotten complicated," Romney said.

City Manager Jim Ferree said the city still intends to go forward with the project but that weather has delayed construction.

"We can build a road between those structures," he said. "We think they're too close, but we can build a road."

He expects construction to begin next spring, no matter what progress has been made on negotiations with Baird or the Herreras.

Neither could be reached for comment.

Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at ccurrie@craigdailypress.com.

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