The city of Wichita has appealed almost all of the monetary awards a panel made this month on the value of the final 10 hold-out properties in the Kellogg and Webb interchange project.
The city is working to extend the Kellogg freeway from where it ends just west of Webb Road to a point about a mile east. Plans call for a complex and expensive interchange with both Webb Road and the turnpike, as well as frontage roads for businesses on the north and south sides of Kellogg.
The city has already negotiated the purchase of, or a six-year construction right-of-way on, 30 parcels along Kellogg and on Webb over the last two or three years. But owners of 10 of the parcels didn’t settle and had their land taken in eminent domain filings.
A court-appointed panel of three appraisers awarded the owners of the 10 parcels a collective $19.6 million for their properties. In one such award, car dealer Joe Self was awarded $3.5 million for 6,462 square feet of land, plus another 6,452 square feet in a six-year construction easement.
The Wichita City Council approved the $19.6 million award, as required by the court, on Nov. 19, but the amount far exceeded an internal estimate in the $4 million to $5 million range, said council member Pete Meitzner.
“We want to be fair and reasonable to the property owners, but at the same time it is the taxpayers’ money that pays for this,” Meitzner said. “I don’t want the property owners to get hurt, nor do I want the citizens to get hurt.”
Last week the city filed seven requests for a jury trial with the state district court; the seven requests cover eight of the parcels, according to court records.
“It is our belief that the awards were excessive,” said City Manager Bob Layton.
The panel of three appraisers – James Gardner, Randy Voth and Leo Goseland – were appointed by the court to value the land at market rate.
Gardner said Friday that the city’s estimates are based on an appraisal that typically values the affected properties in the $7 to $8 range per square foot, when $13 to $21 per square foot is more typical based on comparable sales along East Kellogg going back two decades.
“It’s hard to understand with all of the land sales on East Kellogg how they got that,” he said.
The city appraisal also doesn’t take fully into account the damage to the market value of a property from the loss of access caused by the project. Some of the properties will have access only from side streets, rather than the main access road, he said.
The estimated cost of the entire construction project was set at $97 million in the most recent City Improvement Program, but that was just a rough estimate.
If the current award amounts stand, Layton said, it will force the city to shorten the length of the segment being improved between Webb and Greenwich Road. It will also push the timetable for tackling the next section, to east of Greenwich Road, further into the future.
Self said he has no feeling about the amount awarded because there’s no telling how it will finally come out.
Self said he’s still unhappy with how the city designed the project. It should have been scaled back slightly, he said, and he still isn’t sure whether it will hurt his business by making it harder to access the dealership.
“The outcome is beyond belief,” he said.
Other property owners just want the whole long and difficult process to be over.
Ron Groves, who was awarded $2.25 million under the agreement for his 32,000-square-foot property at the corner of Kellogg and Webb, said the city forced him off a location he had for 33 years. He was able to move to a nearby location.
“I guess we all knew that this was coming,” he said, “but we hoped the process would be a little bit easier and little bit more pro-business.”