Archive for Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Commission awards couple for damages

June 20, 2007

The Leavenworth County Commission has awarded $27,000 to a rural Leavenworth couple for damages related to the realignment of property they own on 147th Street west of Lansing.

Commissioners approved the award Thursday for John and Diane Aaron.

The couple filed for damages in October 2004 after 147th Street on the west side of the Aarons' undeveloped property was straightened and curbed. The area is near 147th Street and Prairie Crossing.

Under state law, whenever a road is vacated, opened or realigned, an adjoining property owner has one year to petition for damages.

The portion of 147th near the Aaron property is in what the Aarons' attorney Dan Trent called "a developing residential area" with the Southern Hills subdivision directly to the west. A sharp curve in the road considered unsafe for the growing population was leveled and aligned in autumn of 2003.

The Aarons' main grievances with the roadwork were that it marred the view at their 12.3-acre property, cut off access to it and prevented them from building on it.

In May, Diane Aaron told commissioners the west side of the property used to have beautiful trees, grasses and a bluff.

"Now it's deplorable," she said. "It's just a mound of dirt."

Aaron told commissioners her son-in-law had planned on building at least one house on the property, which now lies in the floodplain.

"I thought we would have our children living by us," Diane Aaron said wiping her eyes. "It kind of upsets me."

"Building as they had intended is no longer a possibility," Trent said at Thursday's meeting.

Trent also said the Aarons saw a great reduction in access to the property. The couple once had 810 feet of frontage, and now they only have 60 feet.

"Without a doubt, the realignment of 147th Street -- which was done for public safety -- did impact the Aaron property," County Counselor David Van Parys said at the May meeting. "The question is how do you measure or gauge that impact."

Trent answered, "My client is asking for the difference between the appraised value before the road was straightened and after."

A county appraisal estimated the Aarons' loss of value at $6,150 whereas a private appraisal found the loss to be $58,825.

After hearing testimony, reviewing both appraisals and conferring with county officials, Commissioner Clyde Graeber moved and the commission unanimously agreed to award $27,000 to the Aarons for damages incurred.

The Aarons still have the right to appeal up to 30 days following the decision.

Also Thursday, the commission denied a request for an extension to a special-use permit issued to Mike West, owner of West Salvage at 30325 172nd Street.

West, whose current permit expires July 10, said rainy weather has prevented him from cleaning up the remaining automobiles and scrap metal on his property.

"Had the weather permitted, we'd be on our way," West said. "I'm ready to pack up and move on."

Commissioners Dean Oroke and J.C. Tellefson asked West why they should grant an extension based solely on good faith.

"We accommodated you 100 percent last year because you didn't have a place to go," Oroke said.

Tellefson added, "I get the feeling that if we'd had sunshine for the past six months, we'd be in the same situation."

West said that the Salina-based crushing company he uses would not be able to make it to his property before July 10 but that he would contact the company to inquire about breaking his contract.

"I'll do what I need to do, and we'll get this going," West said.

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