The Santee City Council voted unanimously at the July 10 meeting to give the city eminent domain power after a public hearing on the matter that included comments from a Santee family that felt burdened because they would lose their home of 50 years.
"Santee takes eminent domain very seriously," said Mayor Randy Voepel. "It's someone's property; its their life."
According to the city, the successful completion of the Prospect Avenue Widening Project requires that the city acquire privately held land. The city is currently negotiating purchasing prices with land owners, but eminent domain gives the city more leverage. Dozens of properties on nine streets are affected.
"This resolution is not the end of negotiations, simply a legally required action to move the project forward," said city staff.
Staff also said that when negotiations are done under threat of eminent domain, the landowner gets some benefits.
According to the city, four properties would need to be purchased in total, permanent easements would be needed on 29 properties, and 66 temporary construction easements are needed.
Santee Chamber of Commerce Executive Director John Olsen shared business concerns with the council, including reduction of parking spaces in the area, many businesses in the area rely heavily on street parking, and to make sure business access is open during construction.
Gloria Duff spoke during public comments, her family's home of 50 years is one of four the city would like to completely take.
"As a family we are being hindered by this… our situation is difficult… we've been loyal santee residents for more than 50 years and the city is looking to take that property for this project," she said.
Duff said their house was paid for, the family took second mortgage for remodels recently, but wouldn't get enough money to buy a house in the area.
"We don't want to leave. My family has been here since there were cow pastures, and now it looks like we'll need to move out of town."
Once the project is completed, the sidewalk would be situated five feet from their house.
The city agreed to discuss alternatives to taking their property.
"We always have to look at the greater common good over the individual, which sounds like communism to me, and I'm not a fan of eminent domain myself," said Voepel.
The project is expected to be completed in December 2014.