Delaware News

Landowners stand in way of Sawmill extension

Farmers whose land would be bisected by road get $850,000 settlement; about 60 landowners will be affected

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

Scott Bauder grew up the son of a farmer in Delaware.

For the past 20 years, he has farmed a 47-acre plot of land on Clark-Shaw Road, just west of North Liberty Road, with his wife, Kathy. They grow corn, soybeans and wheat.

The Bauders always hoped to leave the land to their son to continue the family's farming tradition -- but a planned $50 million project to extend Sawmill Parkway threw a wrench in those dreams.

The finished roadway will bisect their property, splitting the farmland in two.

"We're going to try to continue farming. That's our ultimate goal," Mr. Bauder said.

But to reach the orphaned farmland on the west side of the parkway, he will have to negotiate heavy machinery out of his own driveway, down the road and then through a neighbor's property. It's illegal to drive tractors directly across the street.

For the Bauders, there's a silver lining to this story. They filed suit against the county, saying the $450,000 in compensation for land and damages was insufficient.

On March 6, a jury returned a verdict of $850,000 in favor of the Bauders, nearly doubling the county's initial offer.

It still falls short of the $1.2 million an independent appraiser said is owed to the Bauders, said Delaware County Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Chris Betts.

"In this case, the verdict came back pretty much right in the middle," Betts said.

The Bauders said they're just glad the case is over. The fight for their property began nearly a decade ago, when tentative plans for the parkway extension first surfaced in 2004.

"Now we can move on with our lives and not have that hanging over us," Mrs. Bauder said.

Other landowners whose property is being seized through eminent domain -- and who are unhappy with the compensation offered by the county -- will have to keep fighting.

Attorney Michael Braunstein, who represented the Bauders in their court case, said he currently is working with 18 other affected property owners.

"We represent a couple of other farmers facing the same situation, where the farm is getting cut in half and one portion is landlocked -- legally impossible to access," Braunstein said.

"These are homeowners who moved out to this area where they wanted a rural setting for their home and families. Now they're facing a situation where they're going to have a major road, in some cases, within 30 or 40 feet of their homes."

About 60 property owners are in the path of the 2.5-mile stretch that will extend from Sawmill Parkway's current terminus at Hyatts Road north to Bunty Station Road.

Many more still are awaiting notification by the county.

Right-of-way acquisition hasn't begun for the remainder of the road extension -- from Bunty Station Road north to Section Line Road -- said Rob Riley, project manager with the Delaware County Engineer's Office.

Officials said plans for the Sawmill Parkway extension aren't set in stone. County officials are negotiating a cost-sharing agreement with the city of Delaware.

But the county engineer's office is moving forward with engineering plans for the project.

Delaware city officials said the road will provide a boost to the local economy by making way for the expansion of the city's business park.

City leaders also said it will serve as a second major north-south transportation link, providing some traffic relief in the rapidly developing region.

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