Henry Richter, who owns a high-profile downtown Chandler property that government officials want for a new bus route serving light rail, says he’s not happy with the offered purchase price, but it’s better than having it taken through eminent domain.
The Chandler City Council on Monday is expected to consider a deal to buy Richter’s 10,000-square-foot residential property — just north of a city pocket park on the northeast corner of Arizona Avenue and Chandler Boulevard, in a predominantly commercial strip across the street from the Chandler Center for the Arts — for $190,000, plus closing costs of about $900.
“That’s the figure we settled on. What can you do?” Richter said.
He called the city’s initial offer of $125,000 “a joke.” However, he said he’d rather sell the land to the city voluntarily than to have it condemned.
Richter countered with an offer of $240,000, according to a recent report by Erich Kuntze, a Chandler real estate manager. The final price was negotiated over several months.
“These negotiations took into consideration market conditions for rental properties in the area, the current appraisal, the property rights being acquired, project timing, the cost and time required to prosecute a condemnation action, and the potential of a higher award due to the property’s location,” Kuntze wrote.
Last August, the City Council voted 4-2 to authorize the use of eminent domain if the negotiations were unsuccessful. An existing bus bay that already cuts into the front of the property will be expanded for the new rapid-transit bus route, leaving the property without access to Arizona Avenue.
The land contains a detached home and a duplex. Chandler officials have said that the city will help the occupants, who are all renters, with relocation costs.
The new LINK route will run from the Tumbleweed Park & Ride at Germann Road and Hamilton Street in south Chandler up Arizona Avenue/Country Club Drive to Main Street in Mesa, then turn west and run to Sycamore Station, the easternmost terminus of the light-rail system.
Once the deal is finalized, the city would be reimbursed with federal stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration through Valley Metro.
“FTA finds that the settlement is reasonable, prudent and in the public interest,” said Leslie Rogers, FTA regional administrator, in a Feb. 4 letter to the Phoenix Public Transit Department.
All told, the 12-mile route is expected to include about 20 stops in Mesa, Gilbert and Chandler. Construction is scheduled to wrap up in July 2010. The total cost for design, land acquisition and construction is expected to run about $12.5 million, paid out of a $15 million pot of federal stimulus funds.
Chandler also is working to acquire small portions of 15 commercial properties along the route. Valley Metro doesn’t have the authority to handle land acquisitions, leaving the city responsible for acquiring the necessary private land. Valley Metro has agreed to reimburse the city up to $940,000 for land acquisition costs.
Last November, Valley Metro agreed to postpone work on the route until after the holiday shopping season to protect local businesses, at the request of Mesa and Chandler officials.
The new route is the East Valley’s second rapid-transit bus line connecting to light rail. An existing route travels along Main Street through Mesa and connects to the same light-rail station.