Richfield working to finalize acquisition of 12 homes for road project

The city of Richfield is still working with homeowners on 17th Avenue near the Cedar Pointe Commons shopping center in acquiring 12 homes for a road construction project.

The city and consultants have been reaching out to the homeowners after having the homes appraised this fall. Appraisals ranged from about $140,000 to upwards of $200,000, according to Richfield Transportation Engineer Jeff Pearson.

The process is one to two months behind schedule. “We had to work out the language and offers and the petition,” plus it proved a challenge to reach each homeowner in a timely manner,  Pearson said.

To trigger the project, which would connect Richfield Parkway to Bloomington Avenue to enhance access to the Cedar Point Commons commercial center, residents at the 12 homes have the option of signing a petition to approve the acquisitions. Pearson was hoping to have firm responses to the city’s proposition this week, in preparation for a Dec. 11 city council meeting, when council members will vote on acquiring the homes and authorizing the road project to move forward.

As of last week, no agreements with homeowners had been signed, but it appears that most residents are ready to move. In addition to the appraisal-based offers, they will have to consider the moving costs offered by the city. Meant to compensate homeowners so they may move into a similar home elsewhere, those proposed payments range between $15,000 and $20,000, according to Pearson.

“I would guess that most residents want it to happen,” he said. “I guess it just comes down to the offer and what they had in mind.”

Andy Hartle, one of the homeowners affected, confirmed that the residents of 17th Avenue between 63rd and 65th Street are eager to leave.

“I think all of us are about ready to get out of here as quick as possible,” the retiree said.

Residents on 16th Avenue have been in limbo for 14 years, he noted. Eleven homeowners on 18th Avenue were bought out in 2000 to make room for Cedar Pointe Commons, a commercial center with Target and Home Depot as anchor tenants, according to Hartle. “We thought we were going to be bought out, too,” he said.

Hartle had been confident enough a buy-out was imminent that he declined to have his roof fixed in 1998, when his home took hail damage. “At the time I told them that I didn’t see any sense in putting a new roof on my house, because my house wasn’t going to be there much longer,” he said.

Hartle’s hopes of a clean exit were again dashed in 2009 when plans for the construction of an assisted living facility were scrapped in the midst of the wide-spread financial crisis. That project, too, called for the removal of homes along 16th Avenue.

The street’s appearance suggests other residents, too, have neglected maintenance in anticipation of a buy-out.

“We don’t want to put any money into them because they’re just going to be crunched. … If you look down the street you can see that the homes are for the most part not in real good shape anymore. They haven’t been painted in a while,” Hartle observed.

He said his chimney is “falling apart” while his front steps are “disintegrating.” Although Hartle did recently give in and do some patch work on his 35-year-old roof, he said it would take $25,000 in work to return the home to a livable state.

“That would be just money down the drain on my part,” Hartle said.

The city council will consult the list of those agreeing to the sale before voting whether to move forward with the project. They don’t need all 12 homeowners to sign the agreement to authorize the project’s continuation, but council members have indicated they would be hesitant to vote in favor of the project without strong approval from the residents affected.

But if the council does authorize the project without agreement from each of the 12 homeowners, a condemnation process would begin for the homes of any owners who don’t sign. Construction would start next spring.

“We just hope this process continues on here,” said Hartle, who hopes to move out early next year, headed with his wife to a new home in Arizona.

Even with the go-ahead still not finalized, Hartle is done waiting.

“I’ve been doing a little bit of packing,” he said.