Three property owners along West Jersey Street in Johnstown appear to be forcing the village's hand.

Three property owners along West Jersey Street in Johnstown appear to be forcing the village's hand.

Johnstown Village Council on March 14 voted unanimously to file eminent-domain proceedings against the owners of properties at 33, 74 and 175 W. Jersey St. for permanent easements.

Jim Lenner, village manager/planner, said law director Jennifer Croghan filed for the easements in Licking County Common Pleas Court on March 16.

Eminent domain is the power of the federal, state and local governments to take private property for public use, according to the Ohio Attorney General's Office. When property is taken or appropriated for public use, the government is required by law to pay the owner fair market value of the property taken.

Construction is expected to begin on the $1.2 million West Jersey Street improvement project by the end of the month. Lenner said a contract was awarded to Layton of Newark.

The improvements will include drainage, intersection, signal, sidewalk and water-line construction, along with full-depth road reconstruction from South Main Street to Anna Way.

It will involve the complete removal and replacement of the roadway, sidewalks and storm sewer, Lenner said. Corner lots will get large-radius curb cuts for buses, he said.

The village started obtaining certain permanent property interests from 54 landowners to construct the improvements, as well as temporary construction easements necessary to perform the work.

All but three have complied, Lenner said.

"We went from 54 to three, so something had to work," he said. "Most were receptive, and their cooperation made it happen."

Lenner said the village began to reach out to owners around the start of the year, first sending introductory letters and then follow-up letters and phone calls through the law director and zoning inspector.

The owners of the three unresolved properties have not replied, he said.

Teresa Monroe, council clerk, said the addresses, amount of easement and fair-market value for the three properties are:

* 33 W. Jersey St., 0.003 acre, $300.

* 74 W. Jersey St., 0.004 acre, $334.

* 175 W. Jersey St., 0.003 acre, $800.

The properties are owned by Jonathan and Melody Yoder, Casey Apperson, and John and Shirley Neibarger, respectively, according to Licking County Auditor's Office records.

ThisWeek visited the residences March 17, but nobody answered the door. The home at 33 W. Jersey appeared to be vacant.

Lenner said the widening project should increase property values, and most owners realize that.

"Other people have different opinions, and we'll go through the process," he said.

West Jersey becomes Mink Street at the village limits.

The Ohio Department of Transportation this fall will begin construction on an interchange at Mink and state Route 161 in Jersey Township, east of the Beech Road interchange, to accommodate traffic from New Albany's existing and anticipated commercial development.

That interchange would lead to another primary route to Johnstown, though Lenner said it "kinda already is."