The Pocatello City Council approved a measure that puts it one step closer to completing the 14-year-long South Valley Connector project.
The city is now able to purchase land from property owners where they want to build the connector. If they cannot reach a deal, they can also use eminent domain to buy the land.
City engineer Deidre Castillo said this is really a crucial turning point for the project; the city cannot build without the land.
A surveyor’s stake on Leo Lane shows the projected place where the connector will run through a field. But several different people own the land. Castillo said the city and landowners have been in negotiations for almost a year now, and her consultants said if they have not reached a deal yet, it is time to use eminent domain.
Some landowners feel their land is worth more than the city offered.
“They don’t want to pay me. They don’t want to give me anything. They just want to pay me as little as possible,” said landowner Brad Christensen. He said he wants to make the connector a good thing for the community but that the city is not offering him as much as he thinks his land is worth.
“I can totally understand where these property owners are coming from. I can’t say that I would be any different it were my property. From a purely engineering standpoint, you do what it takes to get the job done,” Castillo said.
Castillo said she does not want to use eminent domain, but at this point, it would be more expensive to stop the project than to complete it.
Land the city purchases is appraised at a fair market value, Castillo said.