City will use Eminent Domain to Acquire Private Property

Tuscaloosa City Hall is moving to seize nine properties to complete a $7.54 million improvements project along 10th Avenue.

The project has been in the works since at least 2014 but was been held up with property acquisition efforts and design changes to counter cost overruns, city officials said.

A total of 29 properties were needed to complete the work and the city has worked out agreements with 20 of the owners.

The remaining nine will be acquired through the City Council’s use of its eminent domain powers, which allow for governments to take privately-owned land — and compensate the owners for such — for public uses.

Tuscaloosa Councilman Kip Tyner on Tuesday asked why the Office of the City Attorney was recommending the eminent domain process at this time.

Senior Associate City Attorney Tom Bobitt said negotiations with the owners had broken down with the counter-offers becoming further and further apart.

“We’ve gone as far as we can go with voluntary acquisitions on 10th Avenue,” Bobitt said. “There’s just a point where you know.”

The nine properties being seized are all partial takes, said City Engineer Wendy Shelby, meaning strips of each lot are needed to complete the work.

Of the 20 properties that have been acquired, nine were vacant lots and completely obtained by the city, Shelby said

Construction could start by the end of the year.

“It all depends on those last nine properties,” Shelby said.

The project will extend along 10th Avenue between Hargrove Road and 29th Street and include the stretch along 29th Street between 10th Avenue and Harmon Park.

Included in the upgrades are street resurfacing; roadway and pedestrian lighting, improvements to the storm water drainage, sewer and water infrastructure; landscaping; and the extension of the 10-foot City Walk along the east side of 10th Avenue and north side of 29th Street.

Additional resurfacing is planned between 29th to 31st streets on 10th Avenue.

Originally budgeted at more than $14 million, the project initially included roadway widening, median construction and the placement of utilities underground.

However, budget constraints forced these aspects to be removed, Shelby said.

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Article Link: http://www.tuscaloosanews.com/news/20170718/city-will-use-eminent-domain-to-acquire-private-property

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