Mission moves closer to needed easements for Johnson Drive

Mission’s ongoing development agenda moved ahead this week, but not without some ripples among the council.

The Johnson Drive rehabilitation project is still acquiring easements and rights-of-way from property owners for sidewalks, parking and the street. When the project began, it was discovered that the city did not own easements for all of the public areas and those would need to be obtained to proceed with the upgrade. Johnson Drive will be rebuilt next year, maintaining the four lanes of traffic, storefront parking and sidewalks. The project adds new landscaping and street lighting as well in the rebuild.

Originally, easements were needed on more than 30 properties. Wednesday, the council approved settlements with six more owners who had agreed to the city’s payment offer and now only five remain to be acquired. A point of contention for some on the council has been that the original estimate for easement acquisition turned out to be low. That caused Councilor Amy Miller to vote against the newest settlements.

Miller also was concerned about parking for businesses. New city administrator Gerry Vernon told the council the city worked out language saying existing parking will remain after reconstruction. Owners will not, though, be able to limit parking to their own customers.

Because some settlements exceeded appraisals, Councilor Lawrence Andre worried that some merchants might have gotten a better deal. Vernon said the negotiating team felt in some areas the parking was worth more and the negotiated settlement avoided other costs. Councilor Dave Shepard said the same team negotiated using the same methodology, taking into account the same issues to make the process fair.

The council has previously approved the use of eminent domain for those easements that can’t be acquired.

In another development issue, the council approved on a split vote a pre-development agreement with the owners of the Mission West shopping center who have applied for a Community Improvement District to charge an extra cent sales tax. The agreement allows the city to be reimbursed for its time working with the developer. However, it is unclear if the CID will gain council approval when it comes for a vote.