posted Mar 7, 2012, 12:36 PM by Friends of Hurricane Creek
Early land acquisition program detailed

Residents in path of Eastern Bypass learn about options for purchase

By Wayne Grayson
Staff Writer
Published: Friday, May 27, 2011 at 3:30 a.m.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 26, 2011 at 11:42 p.m.

When Jeff Jolly’s home on Keene Drive was destroyed by an EF-4 tornado on April 27, the last thing on his mind was a future highway project.

But one month later, with the Alabama Department of Transportation beginning to contact Holt residents affected by the tornado who reside in the footprint of the future Eastern Bypass, the issue is a major concern for him.

ALDOT held a Thursday night meeting in the Holt High School auditorium to provide right-of-way purchase information to property owners like Jolly who are in the path of bypass.

ALDOT and the Federal Highway Administration are using an optional “hardship acquisition” process to buy rights-of-way for the Eastern Bypass, ALDOT spokesman Tony Harris said Thursday.

The first phase of construction for the $220 million project is scheduled to begin in mid-2015 between Jack Warner Parkway’s intersection with the Paul W. Bryant Bridge and Crescent Ridge Road. Construction of the next segment, between Alabama Highway 216 and Crescent Ridge Road, would begin in 2016. Then, in 2017, construction would begin on another segment between Alabama Highway 216 and Crescent Ridge Road.

About 80 relocations out of 100 tracts in the Crescent Ridge Road area north of Alabama Highway 215 in Holt will be needed because of destruction from the April 27 tornado.

Harris said the department decided to reach out to these property owners and give them the option to sell now rather than wait until the time the department normally begins making offers for homes considered for eminent domain.

Eminent domain refers to the right of a government to seize private property for public use, in exchange for payment of fair market value.

“We’d rather give them the option to go ahead and relocate now than them rebuild in their current location and then have to end up having these negotiations anyway,” he said.

As residents streamed in to the auditorium, they were asked to provide their contact information and make their way to one of three tables with large maps of the tracts in the Crescent Ridge Road area north of Alabama Highway 215 in Holt. The footprint of the planned bypass was overlaid on top of the maps and ALDOT representatives assisted residents in finding out if they were eligible for the program.

Once these residents are identified by ALDOT, Harris said the department will appraise their property, based on the market value after the storm, and make them an offer. He said the program’s main focus is relocating each resident to a comparable home.

For example, if a homeowner has a residence and lot worth $100,000 and insurance covers $70,000, the remaining $30,000 would be paid by state and federal money. Even if a resident doesn’t have home insurance, Harris said the department will make them an offer large enough to relocate them.

Amanda Dudley, who also lives on Iris Drive, said she feels like ALDOT is benefiting from the storm.

“If the storm hadn’t come through this area, they would have had to offer you the full market value for your home before the storm,” she said. “But now with insurance paying most of the cost and them appraising the homes based on the market value after the storm, they’re getting a deal.”

However, Harris said that federal law prevents ALDOT from paying property owners for their property when they’re already being reimbursed by an insurance policy.

Jolly found out that his home was outside of the footprint, but he said that because his property will be near the bypass, it could be used later on as a commercial lot.

“I just needed to be here to better understand what was going on,” he said. “I wasn’t sure if the storm damage to the neighborhood would cause them to change the route of the bypass.”

Jerry LaFoy, 65, and his mother, Mable LaFoy-Honeycutt, 81, said their home on Iris Drive had severe roof damage. In addition, LaFoy’s shop was destroyed along with his car. LaFoy said he was disappointed in the way ALDOT is appraising the properties.

“The week after the storm when we made it back over to look at the house, people from ALDOT were already over there assessing the damage to our house and told us that they were going to make us an offer on the market value of our property before the storm, but they’ve backed off on that now and are only offering the market value after the storm,” he said.

Cary and Jeanette Baisden’s home on 38th Avenue NE had significant damage. Cary Baisden, 64, said he was glad ALDOT was moving forward with the offers.

“We knew we were in the footprint before the storm and now instead of waiting maybe they’ll just go ahead and buy the property from us,” he said. “We’d just rather move on.”

“We just want to get this whole thing over with,” added his wife, Jeanette, 62.