Worthington City Council is inching forward on the Northeast Gateway project, but city leaders are negotiating with property owners to acquire the necessary land.

The Northeast Gateway is the moniker city officials have chosen for the renovation and redesign of the major intersection on the north side of the city, just south of Interstate 270, at Sancus Boulevard and Worthington-Galena, East Wilson Bridge and Huntley roads.

The name is similar to the Worthington Gateway at the former Holiday Inn site, 7007 N. High St., after the site, previously known as the Village at Worthington Square, was renamed by its developer.

Council members gave a first reading to ordinances that would allow the city to start the process of acquiring needed parcels via eminent domain if necessary.

City law director Tom Lindsey said the ordinance presented before council May 6 is the first of two steps. The first step declares the intent to acquire parcels through eminent domain, and the second authorizes the action of acquiring parcels of land through eminent domain via the Franklin County Common Pleas Court.

“This is the statutory requirement that you intend to proceed in this fashion,” Lindsey said. “Saying you’re going to do it isn’t the same as the actual filing.”

He said no property owner has expressed serious opposition to the project and that property owners would be informed of the city’s intent to acquire their property through eminent domain if necessary.

Lindsey said the city has been negotiating with all property owners and that the owners have known about the project. He said in this case, no property owners have indicated any objection to the project but thus far haven’t agreed on a price for their property.

According to a FAQ section on 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 “just compensation.” Under Ohio law, just compensation is defined as the “fair market value” of the property taken.

“Fair market value is the amount of money which could be obtained on the market at a voluntary sale of the property,” the FAQ states. “It is the amount a purchaser who is willing, but not required to buy, would pay and that a seller who is willing, but not required to sell, would accept, when both are fully aware and informed of all the circumstances involving the value and use of the property.”

The project involves acquiring parcels from 38 property owners, Lindsey said.

He said 15 property owners are listed in the eminent-domain resolution, but city leaders expect some of them to reach an agreement before eminent domain is filed with the court.

The properties are 431, 438, 439 and 445 East Wilson Bridge Road, 7057-7079, 7099 and 7100 Huntley Road, 733 Lakeview Plaza Blvd. and 7045, 7059 and 7069 Worthington-Galena Road.

Also listed is a 0.579-acre lot on Worthington-Galena, a 0.693-acre lot on East Wilson Bridge and 2.452-, 0.77-, 0.053-, 0.744- and 0.134-acre lots on Worthington-Galena.

Lindsey said the city has a July 1 filing deadline. He said the negotiation process has been started and that the city intends to wait until late June to continue with eminent-domain proceedings.