The city has exercised its eminent domain rights for one South State Street property and may soon file eminent domain action against another.

The city has exercised its eminent domain rights for one South State Street property and may soon file eminent domain action against another.

The city was working with owners of nine parcels along South State Street, Huber Village Boulevard and Heatherdown Drive to obtain easements for South State Street improvements that are currently under way.

Six other property owners have reached a deal with Westerville for the improvements, or have granted the city right of entry while they negotiate on a price.

Unable to reach an agreement with South State Street Investors, the city filed a check for $55,475 with the Franklin County Clerk of Courts on Sept. 21 for 0.1563 acre in front of Guernsey Bank, 782 S. State St, said city planning and development director Karl Craven.

The move gives the city the rights to the easement, Craven said, and South State Street Investors has 28 days to either claim the check or appeal the amount that is being offered.

"That money is then available for the property owner. They can go down and pick up the money," Craven said. "If they want to pursue a court case because they don't think the amount of money is fair, the court will go ahead and set a court date.

"We have (the land). What it will take later if the guy doesn't think the price is right, the court will determine that," he said. "We can continue negotiations."

The city also is still in talks with property owner James Taylor over 0.205 acre in front of US Bank, 833 S. State St., and it is likely the city will file to exercise eminent domain in the case as well, Craven said.

"If something doesn't come within the next week, we'll probably have to file with the court for that property, also," he said.

The price on another piece of property needed for the project, 0.168 acre in front of Knight's Inn, 32 Heatherdown Drive, also has not been settled on, Craven said, but the city has given property owner V.J. Capital Management more time to seek its own appraisal on the land because that easement will not be needed during the current phase of the project.

The city will have to reach an agreement with the property owner by the beginning of next year, Craven said, or look to use eminent domain.

The legal proceedings do not interfere with the city's ability to move forward with the project, Craven said, which includes burying utility lines and other streetscape improvements.

Craven has said previously that in the past 15 years, in dealing with 150 property owners on cases that could have led to eminent domain action, the city has only had to file action against one other property owner.