The city of Grove City is initiating the process of negotiating with property owners to purchase portions of their properties to allow the extension of Columbus Street.

The roadway would be extended from near the Grove City Library building at 3959 Broadway to the Beulah Park development.

City Council passed a resolution May 20 authorizing the negotiating process to begin.

"Technically, the legislation begins the eminent-domain process, but we are nowhere near to reaching that point," law director Stephen Smith said.

A total of 18 properties and eight property owners are affected by the planned extension of Columbus Street, he said.

"It's a mix of properties, including railroad land, commercial properties and residential properties," Smith said. "In some cases, we'll be negotiating to purchase a portion of the property. In others, we'll be looking to buy the entire parcel."

The city has contracted with Horner Appraisal Group of Columbus to determine the offers that will be made to property owners.

The firm will appraise the properties without the city's input, Smith said.

"The appraisals and our resulting offers will be based on the fair-market value of the properties, which is what is required by state law," he said. "The process we're following adheres to what's set under the Ohio Revised Code."

"Fair-market value" means the offer will correspond with the amount the appraiser determines the property owner could expect to receive for the property if it were put on the market, Smith said.

In the case of residential properties in which people would have to move, relocation costs would be included in the overall offer, he said.

Funding for land acquisition is included in the $6 million council voted to appropriate in January to pay for costs associated with the Columbus Street extension, Smith said.

The city will send property owners a 30-day offer letter, which by state law is a notice that they have 30 days to negotiate and accept an offer from the municipality before an eminent-domain action might take place, he said.

"In this case, these property owners are going to have a lot more time than that to negotiate an agreement with the city," Smith said. "It will be several months before we would potentially reach that stage.

"We will hire a negotiator and there will be a number of meetings with the property owners to work on the agreements," he said.

If negotiations for any property prove unsuccessful, city council would have to authorize the city to sue to obtain the property, he said.

"We don't want and don't expect to get to that point," Smith said. "If we went through that process because there is a roadway involved, we could acquire the property immediately upon doing that."

The city's right to acquire the property would prevail because acquiring the land for the roadway would be for the benefit of the entire community, Smith said.

The last time Grove City went through an eminent-domain process was when it needed to purchase portions of about 20 properties to allow for improvements on Stringtown Road, he said.

Agreements were reached with all but two of the property owners, Smith said.

The remaining property owners settled with the city before legislation to acquire the land was presented to council, he said.

Council approved the resolution on May 20 with a 4-0 vote. Council President Steve Robinette was absent.

Councilwoman Christine Houk said her vote in favor of the resolution was an effort to "separate my personal feelings and my personal vision of what we could have done" with the Columbus Street extension and focus on the content of the specific legislation.

The resolution was "a formality" and a measure "we all know was coming," she said.

Houk said she still has concerns about whether extending traffic from the library site all the way to the Beulah Park development is the best choice.

"I have a much easier time embracing a vision of extending Columbus Street to a plaza with commercial development and a pedestrian-friendly corridor that gets us to the Beulah land," she said.

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