Merriam needs 10 property owners’ OK to move forward on $2.6M 55th Street project

Merriam 55th Street

The city of Merriam is taking the first steps in the condemnation process to move along a $2.6 million project on 55th Street between Switzer Road and Merriam Drive. Photo credit Juliana Garcia.

The city of Merriam is taking steps to move forward on a $2.6 million project along 55th Street but must first try to gain the approval of some property owners who have yet to sign off on temporary construction easements in the right-of-ways in front of their properties.

Why it matters: The long sought after project to improve the 55th Street corridor can’t continue until the city gets all 35 impacted property owners to sign off on temporary construction easements to work in the right-of-ways.

Currently, there are 10 property owners that have yet to give the city the green light. If they do not, then the city will have to petition Johnson County District Court to legally acquire the parts of the properties needed to accommodate road work and stage equipment.

Where things stand: The city council on May 9 approved a resolution declaring the project necessary, calling on a survey of the remaining residences.

At its meeting this Monday night, the city council will consider additional action to keep the project moving forward.

Why now? For years, a $2.6 million project to improve a stretch of 55th Street from Merriam Drive to Switzer Road has appeared on the city’s capital improvement project list.

The proposal details curb and gutter replacement, repavement, as well as adding bike lanes and new sidewalks on both sides of the street.

But the city first needs to acquire construction easements from residents to conduct road work, stage equipment and add the sidewalks, according to city documents.

Residents are supposed to be compensated based on fair market value of the impacted property, according to city documents.

Where property owners stand: As of May 18, city staff told the Post that 25 of 35 property owners had signed appropriate documentation and received compensation for the easements.

But for a variety of reasons, the city has not reached agreements with the 10 other property owners. The city came to terms with one more owner, City Administrator Chris Engel says, but that owner has yet to sign off on the easement.

Some have been unresponsive to city outreach, including both owner-occupied homes and rental units with non-local landlords, according to city documents.

Others have requested compensation “far in excess of fair market value,” according to city documents.

And a few others have expressed concerns about the project’s impact on their driveways, according to city documents.

The process: The approved resolution is first step in the condemnation process, and it also authorizes the second step — a survey of the property for each of the remaining property owners.

After that, the city will adopt an ordinance before filing a petition, Engel told the city council on May 9.

Engel said each step of the process allows for an “off-ramp,” meaning a petition will not be filed for each property.

What’s next: Following additional attempts to negotiate and reach out to the remaining property owners, the city council will consider approving an ordinance condemning lands or interests in lands at its Monday meeting.

If the city cannot get the remaining property owners to agree to construction easements, the city will need to file a petition in district court. Otherwise, the 55th Street project cannot move forward.

Key quote: “We may not have to continue (the condemnation process) with every single one of these, we might have one or two we have to go all the way through the process for,” Engel said at the May 9 city council meeting.