Sammamish considering using eminent domain to take part of residents’ yard

When Manoj Gupta and his wife Vinaya Kulkarni purchased their home at 103 245th Place S.E. in 2003, they were careful.

  • Friday, May 30, 2008 10:00am
  • News

When Manoj Gupta and his wife Vinaya Kulkarni purchased their home at 103 245th Place S.E. in 2003, they were careful.

They knew that there was a potential construction project on 244th Avenue Southeast, so they went to City Hall to find out whether the construction would have any effect on the home they were looking at.

They were told it would not impact them at all, Gupta says.

On April 10 this year, all that changed.

That day, the city’s right-of-way consultants, Lane and Associates, informed the couple that part of their backyard was needed for a roundabout at the intersection of 244th and East Main Drive.

“We were shocked,” Gupta said. “That the city would want to take one-third of our backyard.”

Just one month later, on May 13, Kulkarni and Gupta received a notice that the City Council would be taking final action on a condemnation ordinance for their land on June 3.

The couple was told that the next time their situation would be discussed was during the June 3 meeting, and they say they weren’t notified about a May 20 public hearing regarding the condemnation.

“We found out inadvertently,” Gupta said. “We scrambled to prepare.”

Gupta and Kulkarni’s home sits on a quarter-acre parcel. The city wants to use 900 square feet of that for the roundabout. However, because of the way their home is placed on their lot, the backyard is already small. Taking the 900 square feet out would leave them with an odd triangle shape, something Gupta worries will have a detrimental impact on the resale value of their home.

Part of the reason for Gupta and Kulkarni’s confusion in the whole process is that several times since 2003 they were told that their house would not be affected.

They were told in 2003 before closing on the sale of their home that if any construction were to take place at the intersection the city would use a 50-foot natural space to the west of their property.

Again in 2005 at an open house meeting about the 244th project, Gupta discussed the project with city staff members, identifying their parcel on various maps. He says he was assured that their land would not be directly affected by the project.

Throughout the city’s process of notifying those affected by the project, Gupta and Kulkarni’s property was never mentioned, until April of this year.

Despite this, Gupta and Kulkarni are not blaming the city. Rather, they just want their views to be heard and fed into the project.

“We are encouraged that the city will work with us,” Gupta said. “That the right steps will be taken.”

That may be the step the city is taking.

At the May 20 public hearing, City Manager Ben Yazici told the City Council that he wanted to look at the situation again before the council voted on the matter.

“This is a significant impact on this property,” Yazici said at the meeting. “There appears to be more options to look into.”

The city is now looking into alternatives that would use less right-of-way space, either by changing the project design or by using the land west of the current project, Yazici said.

The roundabout was not in earlier designs, but public comments suggested that some sort of speed control devices were needed along 244th.

However, recently the Department of Transportation came out with some new alternatives for round-a-bouts that have a smaller circle, Yazici said.

If the city could use one of new designs; the project could take none or very little of the couple’s land.

Gupta said that he and many of his neighbors wonder whether a roundabout is the right choice.

“Since the intersection is on a hill, with two of the four streets being dead-ends, there is only one side that would have traffic coming at a fast speed,” said Sammamish resident Saleel Sathe, who lives on East Main Drive.

Many others at the meeting spoke out against needing a roundabout in the area.

The city should have an idea of which design they will use in the next three to four weeks, Yazici said.

After the city has determined their plan, they will meet with Gupta and Kulkarni to discuss the new layout.

“We want to make sure that there is due process,” Yazici said.

If the nature of the project changes, then another public hearing will be held, city officials said.

If no right of way is required, then the city will not have another public hearing and will proceed with the project.

Reporter Kyra Low can be reached at klow@reporternewspapers.com or 391-0363, ext. 5052.


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