Eminent domain needed to finish General McIntosh-President Stree - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Eminent domain needed to finish General McIntosh-President Street Project?

(Source: WTOC) (Source: WTOC)
SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) -

A vote from Savannah city council members in this week's upcoming council meeting could determine whether or not a big project east of downtown stays on track.

The General McIntosh-President Street Project and widening of the Bilbo Canal has been underway since last January. If everything sticks to the timetable, the project should be done in roughly a year-and-a-half, but to get things moving, the city believes they need to acquire some privately-owned land just off President Street, using eminent domain.

The city believes negotiations to acquire the strip of land just off President Street have reached a stalemate. This week's council agenda outline on the issue says the city has made offers on the land based on appraisals, and the owners, MMA/PSC Savannah River, LLC, have not accepted, though both entities acknowledge the importance of this land in the Bilbo Canal widening project.

City leaders believe that in order to keep the project moving along, invoking eminent domain will at least get the ball rolling again. Acquiring the strip of land would allow the workers to continue the widening project of the Bilbo Canal, which will improve drainage through much of the downtown area. The project will also raise President Street and General McIntosh five to eight feet, also to help with street flooding.

A city spokesperson explains how using eminent domain will help both sides eventually reach a consensus.

"We would buy the property at the appraised value. The city went out and got an appraisal. The property owners can then contest that price, get an appraisal of their own, and run that through the court system, and it comes down to a judge deciding what the fair market value is; what the right price is," said Saja Aures, City of Savannah. "We've both been in agreement that the property is needed for this public improvement. It's a necessary, needed public improvement. It drains most of downtown, the Bilbo Canal. So both sides agree that this is a good thing. What we haven't been able to
agree on is a price for the property."

The city has put up an offer based on an appraisal. But the company that currently owns the land can challenge that appraisal in court, and leave the price point and fair market value up to a judge.

The project is slated to be finished in about a year and a half.

Again, the vote for council comes up this Thursday in the council meeting. We'll follow up for you and have the councils vote on the matter then.

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