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Council set to vote on settlements on lands for Del Prado widening project

By Staff | Aug 12, 2009

Many investors who bought property in Cape Coral during the housing boom years earlier this decade are ruing their decision not to sell during the peak of the market in 2006.
The real estate market has since gone bust, sending property values spiraling down, but some property owners in the Cape are still getting top dollar for their land.
A road widening project to expand Del Prado Boulevard from four lanes to six from just south of Pine Island Road to Kismet Parkway prompted the Cape to beginning buying land on either side of the road in 2004.
The city has voluntarily purchased nearly half of the land needed for the project — 108 of the 235 necessary parcels were purchased voluntarily — but in late 2006 city officials began using the eminent domain process to acquire the remaining land.
Under eminent domain, the city obtains the property after a court finds there is a public necessity for the municipality to take over the land. Then the property owner and the city negotiate the price in a mediated settlement.
The process allowed the Cape to begin work on the road project at the beginning of 2007, but also locked in prices that do not reflect current market realities.
“When we make that deposit, that locks in the date,” said Cape property broker Dawn Andrews.
The city now has about 50 properties that are still going through the mediated settlement process, and seven properties it has left to acquire.
Of the $42 million budgeted for land acquisition related to the road project, at least $26 million has already been spent.
City council members will be asked Monday to approve the settlements of seven non-contiguous properties totaling 110,721 square feet for $1.87 million, plus additional court and attorney fees.
Council members said the Cape’s population growth showed no signs of abating when the project was first being discussed, and the land acquisition was needed.
“It hurts when you look at it. I don’t want to hit the council at the time too harshly, though. The land was something we had to have,” said Mayor Jim Burch, who was elected in 2007, a year after the road project was approved.
A 2002 traffic study by Johnson Engineers predicted that 19,000 vehicles would pass by the 2-mile stretch of Del Prado each day by 2006, rising to 49,000 vehicles by 2026.
According to a Web site for the project, www.capecoraltransportation.com/projects/p-delpr.html, construction should be completed by early 2011.