By April Charlton

San Luis Obispo County might invoke its eminent-domain powers so that the first phase of the Willow Road interchange project in Nipomo can begin as scheduled this summer.

There are 20 parcels between Pomeroy and Hetrick roads that the county needs to secure so construction on the project’s first phase can begin in June.

That work includes extending Willow Road just west of Pomeroy Road through mostly undeveloped property out to Hetrick.

Seventeen of the 20 parcels have been acquired, and negotiations with the three remaining property owners are continuing, said Dave Flynn, county traffic engineer.

All of the properties were appraised last year by an independent consultant hired by the county. The issue with the three remaining properties is those appraisals.

“It really gets into what is the appropriate value of the property,” Flynn told the county Board of Supervisors Tuesday, when the body unanimously adopted a resolution of necessity.

That resolution is the first step in eminent-domain proceedings, which allow the government to obtain private property for public use, and is mostly used when the property can’t be purchased from the owner voluntarily.

“We do need to establish the need for acquisition of these parcels,” Flynn said.

Eminent-domain laws changed several years ago, allowing affected property owners to obtain counter-appraisals, which are paid for by the governmental entity looking to acquire the property, Flynn added.

He said the three property owners could request counter-appraisals of their parcels, and that the county would have to pay — up to $5,000 for each one — for the service.

The county needs to acquire less than a half-acre of the 2-acre undeveloped Knotts parcel near Pomeroy that will provide direct access to an extended Willow Road, as well as 1.2 acres of a 5-acre parcel along Hetrick.

Additionally, the county needs to secure 2 acres of a 40-acre undeveloped parcel that’s almost in the middle of the proposed extension. The acquisition will split the parcel in half, Flynn said.

The three property owners did not attend Tuesday’s hearing.

The second phase of the project includes extending Willow from Hetrick to Highway 101, and then on to Thompson Road, where a full interchange with onramps and offramps is planned. Construction on that portion of the project isn’t expected to begin until 2011.

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