DOT to take access rights from landowners

Published on Thu, Jan 13, 2011 by By Jeremy Schwartz

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The Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) is moving ahead on plans to acquire access rights for driveways along Peace Portal Drive.

The DOT made the decision at a meeting on January 5 in Shoreline, Washington, after discussions with the landowner failed to reach an agreed upon sale price, DOT spokesman Dustin Terpening said. The issue will now move to the state attorney general’s office, which will file a condemnation petition in Whatcom County superior court.

The attorney general’s office will next notify the landowner involved of the condemnation action and file a motion in superior court explaining why the DOT wants the access rights, said Amanda Phily, assistant state attorney general for transportation and public construction. The case could eventually land in front of a judge and jury if the landowner wants to challenge the condemnation, Phily said.

The piece of land in question is owned by Jacaranda Land Corporation and is located at 458 Peace Portal Drive, across the street from the Drayton Harbor Building. A decision regarding the rights of way for the Drayton Harbor building’s driveways, which were also discussed at the meeting, was postponed for two weeks, Terpening said.

The DOT wants the rights of way so it can restrict the number of driveways that might interfere with the Peace Portal roundabout, Terpening said. The goal is to improve traffic flow, he added.

“Ideally it will improve mobility for that interchange,” Terpening said.

Ken Imus, owner of Jacaranda, said he and his attorney have been in discussions with the DOT about the access rights to the Peace Portal property since planning for the roundabout started in January 2010.

Imus said the DOT promised cars would still be able to make left and right turns from his property once the roundabout was finished, but never made that promise in writing as Imus requested. Jacaranda and the DOT were never able to agree upon a price for the access rights.

Jacaranda bought the land a few years ago as part of an effort to re-develop downtown Blaine, Imus said. The land’s appraised value is $273,000, according to the county assessor’s office.

Imus said he is prepared to go to court in order to fight the DOT’s acquisition. He said the DOT’s actions have the potential to devalue the property.

“We will have to defend ourselves,” Imus said. “Once in a while you have to stand up for what you believe in.”

Thomas Bridge, owner of the Drayton Harbor Building, said despite the two weeks’ postponement of a decision regarding his property, he doubts the DOT will decide against moving to acquire his access rights. He said he plans to submit paperwork to the DOT explaining why the access rights should not be taken away, but he is not keeping his hopes up.

“I don’t think there’s anything I can submit to them that can ever change their mind,” Bridge said.

The DOT originally claimed vehicle access to the Drayton Harbor Building would not be restricted, though acquisition of the access rights would do just that, Bridge said.

The DOT has been slow to recognize the damage its actions could have on property values of the Drayton Harbor Building and Imus’ property, Bridge explained.

Bridge accused the DOT of being inconsistent in allowing parking and access on Marine Drive immediately adjacent to the Subway and the roundabout while denying it on Peace Portal Drive.

Bridge said his two options now are legally challenging the DOT if they move to acquire his access rights or allowing it to take the rights and later challenging their value. He said he thinks this disagreement could end up costing the property owners involved thousands of dollars.

The DOT originally offered Bridge, Imus and several other property owners $500 each in compensation for their rights-of-way in preparation for the roundabout construction in January 2010.