City Council OKs consultant services for 236th Street SW condemnations

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The 236th Street Southwest right-of-way acquisition area is highlighted in this graphic, provided by the City of Mountlake Terrace.

The Mountlake Terrace City Council at its March 6 meeting approved a professional services agreement of up to $150,000 with Inslee Best Doezie & Ryder, P.S. for services relating to property and right-of-way acquisition along 236th Street Southwest for the city’s Main Street Revitalization Project.

Since 2015, the city has been making offers to property owners along 236th to acquire property for street improvements, but some owners so far aren’t willing to sell. The city now needs to begin condemnation proceedings to take property under eminent domain and is hiring Inslee Best to provide expertise in that process.

“A number of offers have been made, several have been accepted but there still remains a number of outstanding issues,” said Kinnon Williams, an eminent domain attorney for Inslee Best, in a presentation to the council before the agreement was approved March 6.

According to Williams, acquiring the property and keeping construction on course is key to ensuring the city can secure available funding for the Main Street project. Approving the contract for services will ensure that the city council can authorize eminent domain actions during its March 20 meeting, he added, giving City Manager Scott Hugill the authority to have Williams either file those actions or to negotiate with property owners.

The property the city plans to acquire is called “strip takes” and according to Hugill involves about 2½ to 3½ feet along each property on the north and south sides of 236th. “While there are some exceptions on corner lots and some unique properties, the average is about three feet,” Hugill said.

The 236th Street improvements will run from Mountlake Terrace Transit Center to 56th Avenue West, and will include the addition of street trees, a two-way turn lane, and bike lanes on each side of the street. The project will tie in to the new Sound Transit light rail station with the goal of providing a better pedestrian corridor, including wider sidewalks.

The improvements are among other Main Street Project elements that will also be installed along 56th Avenue (236th Street north to 230th Street), and 232nd and 234th Streets. Among those elements: improvements to utilities, street lighting and signals, stormwater systems, and undergrounding of overhead power along 56th Avenue (236th Street north to 230th Street), and 232nd and 234th Streets.

“Some people think of condemnation as the government taking their property,” Williams said, but constitutionally, the city can’t take property without compensation. “So any individual that is going to have their property acquired by the government for a public purpose, which this is, will get compensated for that. The only issue in this instance is the amount of compensation that will be paid.”

According to Williams, there are approximately 20 homes involved in the process. The city has been working with a number of different property owners, and has reached an agreement with some but not all to acquire their property at a reasonable market rate. “In some cases, people have not returned contact initiated by right-of-way folks or have just declined to discuss it with them,” Williams said.

Also at its March 6 meeting, the council approved three items:

– A funding agreement for the 2017 Tour de Terrace Festival, which is basically unchanged from previous years.

– The 2016 Transportation Benefit District Board Annual Report.

– The Alliance for Housing Affordability 2018 budget and work plan.

— By Teresa Wippel

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