Jury increases parkway land payment
The proposed extension of Sawmill Parkway might have gotten more expensive.
A Delaware County Common Pleas Court jury on Wednesday voted unanimously to award a Liberty Township family nearly twice as much as the county originally offered in the first eminent domain case related to the project.
Scott and Kathy Bauder were awarded $850,762 for 10 acres the county seized through eminent domain from their 47-acre Clark-Shaw Road property.
“It certainly adds to the total project cost,” Delaware County Engineer Chris Bauserman said. “I don’t believe it changes our commitment to the project or our ability to fund it.”
While the jury awarded the Bauders significantly more than the $450,000 the county originally offered, Bauserman doesn’t view the verdict as a defeat.
The Bauders asked the county for about $1.2 million for the 10 acres needed to complete a portion of the parkway, according to Bauserman.
“The county ended up paying more than we had hoped to and the property owners ended up getting less than they would hope to,” he said.
The verdict marks the beginning of a process that likely will result in 18 other eminent domain cases in the court. Only two of those cases are of very high value, according to Bauserman.
“Every one of these that is finalized puts us closer to the completion of the project,” he said.
For the Bauders, the verdict marks the end of a nine-year process.
“It’s a relief just to be done with it,” Kathy Bauder said.
After farming their land for 25 years, their ability to continue will be hampered by the eminent domain action.
Only 11 acres of their remaining land will be farmable. After the parkway is built, 19.5 acres will be landlocked because of the roadway running through the middle of their property. Another portion will be too close to the new roadway to farm.
“There’s no real winners in this case,” Kathy Bauder said. “We still have the same problem as before.”
Attorney Mike Braunstein, who represents the Bauders and the 18 other property owners facing eminent domain, said in most cases the county’s offers have been well below market value and don’t take into account the additional loss in property value that will come with proximity to a major roadway.
“There’s a lot of damage caused because it goes from a rural setting to having the parkway right next door,” he said.
Braunstein hopes the recent verdict will lead to a different negotiating strategy on the part of the county.
“Hopefully, it will mean that the county will take a serious look at what they are doing,” he said.
Bauserman said there are no plans to alter negotiating tactics.
“I don’t think we want to make radical changes in our negotiating tactics based on one jury decision,” he said. “We take each one on a case-by-case basis.”
Fewer than five miles of roadway remain unbuilt for the Sawmill Parkway extension. The remaining cost is estimated to be about $50 million.
The county and the city of Delaware are in negotiations to decide how much each side will pay to complete the project.