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Commissioners OK easements near mall

November 03, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- After balking at the prices for easements for an intersection project near Valley Mall last week, the Washington County Commissioners voted 4-1 Tuesday to approve the easement acquisitions.

The vote will allow county staff to move forward with the purchase of $216,100 worth of temporary and permanent easements from the owners of Valley Mall and Valley Plaza Shopping Center. The easements are needed for a project to widen the intersection of Halfway and Massey boulevards, Deputy Director of Public Works Robert J. Slocum said.

The vote came after Slocum stressed that following guidelines for property acquisition is essential to retaining the state and federal grants for the project and Real Property Administrator Joe Kuhna told the commissioners that the owners of Valley Mall had already made "sizable donations" of right-of-way land for previous projects.

At last week's meeting, Commissioner William J. Wivell said the easement prices seemed too high, considering the intersection improvements will improve access to the mall and the shopping center. At that meeting, a motion to approve the easements died when none of the other commissioners spoke up to second it.

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Returning to the commissioners this week, Kuhna explained that before the county can ask a developer or a property owner to donate a property, it has to have that property professionally appraised to put a value on the potential donation.

"Once we have that value established, then the property owner can decide on his own whether he wants to donate the property, given its value, or ask that the property be purchased," Kuhna said.

Kuhna said Philadelphia Real Estate Investment Trust, the owner of the Valley Mall property, had donated land to the county in the past for the realignment of Cole Road and for improvements to the intersection of Massey Boulevard and Virginia Avenue.

The current intersection project at Halfway and Massey boulevards did receive some support from developers, in the form of a $250,000 donation from the developer of Crosspoint Shopping Center to pay for a right-turn lane, Kuhna said. The county required that donation as a condition for approving the plan to build the Kohl's and Target in that shopping center, he said.

The $7.4 million project at Halfway and Massey involves expanding the intersection to have double left-turn lanes, double through lanes and single right-turn lanes in all directions and adding sidewalks around the intersection.

Commissioner James F. Kercheval said paying for the easements was a "necessary evil" because when the Valley Mall and Valley Plaza developments were approved, the county hadn't envisioned the additional development that would make the intersection inadequate.

In the future, Kercheval said, the county should work harder to plan ahead for road expansion when new developments are first approved.

Wivell was the only commissioner to vote against the acquisitions Tuesday.

How they voted:



The Washington County Commissioners voted 4-1 to approve an additional $216,100 in easement acquisitions for an intersection improvement near Valley Mall.

Kristin B. Aleshire - yes

Terry Baker - yes

John F. Barr - yes

James F. Kercheval - yes

William J. Wivell - no

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