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County to widen road at Halfway and Massey

Commissioners voted to spend $597,150 for about half an acre

Commissioners voted to spend $597,150 for about half an acre

July 21, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

HALFWAY -- The Washington County Commissioners voted Tuesday to spend $597,150 for about half an acre of right-of-way land for a road-widening project at the intersection of Halfway and Massey boulevards near Valley Mall.

The $7.4 million project will expand the intersection to have double left-turn lanes, double through lanes and single right-turn lanes in all directions, according to the county's capital improvement plan.

The $597,150 will buy about one-tenth of an acre of land from the Dollar Tree property, about one-tenth of an acre from the Hagerstown Ford property and about two-tenths of an acre from the Motel 6 property. It also includes the cost of temporary easements that will allow the county to use additional land on all three properties during the construction period.

The county still needs to purchase rights of way from three additional properties for that project, real property administrator Joe Kuhna said. The project's total budget for right-of-way acquisition is $1.6 million.

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The commissioners voted 4-1 to approve option agreements that will allow staff to move forward with the title work and settlement needed to finalize the purchases.

Commissioner William J. Wivell voted against the agreements. He said the price was surprising, especially considering that the intersection improvements are likely to benefit the very businesses that are selling portions of their property for the rights of way.

Kuhna said the right-of-way acquisition proposal followed months of negotiation and the prices were based on appraisals that showed the land was worth $14 to $17 per square foot.

Some of the other commissioners balked at the price, but ultimately voted for the purchase.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said the county had little choice at this point, but in the future officials should be careful to set aside land for future lane additions before development begins.

"If that was designated 30 years ago as one day needing to be four, five, six lanes, we could have avoided that as everything was built around it," Kercheval said.

Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire said he could see the justification for high prices for land from some smaller commercial lots, but doesn't think the county should pay so much for a right of way still to be purchased from Valley Mall.

"We're not impeding that property, we're only making it more accessible for folks to say, 'Yes, I think I will drive there because I can get in and out of there,' whereas right now some of those are probably saying, 'No, I'm not going there,' because accessibility is an issue," Aleshire said.

Kuhna said he is confident the project will be able to stay within budget as the county purchases rights of way from the other three properties. Negotiations are wrapping up with the mall and the Valley Plaza Shopping Center and are under way with the developer who owns the site of the former Roy Rogers restaurant, he said.

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