Government & Politics

Overland Park man says city didn’t offer nearly enough to take his land. Court agrees

An Overland Park homeowner didn’t think the city was paying him nearly enough to take a chunk of his land and decades-old trees for a road-widening project.

A court agreed with him.

Appraisers appointed by a Johnson County judge determined this month that Scott Hamblin should get $19,000 — more than twice the $9,200 the city initially offered.

The differing amounts should prompt concerns about whether the city “low-balled” residents when it condemned property for the road project, said Hamblin, who lives with his family east of 177th Street and Quivira Road.

“At this point, I’m more concerned about the city talking about what happened here,” Hamblin told The Star. “Why did this happen and how it’s not going to happen to everybody else.”

His attorney, Michelle Burns, also said the “low offer” called into question the city’s appraisal process.

City spokeswoman Meg Ralph said the city’s original offer was based on an independent appraiser’s determination of fair market value of the property.

In October, the Overland Park City Council unanimously approved using its power of eminent domain to acquire land for a $27 million project to widen and improve Quivira Road between 159th and 179th streets, near Blue Valley Southwest High School.

The city wanted to take a portion of Hamblin’s side yard and at least a dozen trees that are more than 60 years old. Even before the city made its offer for the property earlier last year, Hamblin called it an abuse of power, in part because the city is seizing land in anticipation of a road expansion that might not occur for 20 years.

Starting this summer, the city will make road improvements — including relocating utilities and adding a median, road shoulders, gutters, drainage curbs and sidewalks to the two-lane road — to prepare for a four-lane thoroughfare the city believes might be necessary to accommodate projected increases in traffic by 2040.

The recommendation for a future four-lane road stems from a 2015 South Overland Park Transportation plan.

“The land will help the city make Quivira as safe as possible for southwest Overland Park residents and drivers, especially those traveling to and from Blue Valley Southwest High School and Aubry Bend Middle School,” Ralph said in a statement.

She said the city “fully expects” that Quivira will one day need additional traffic lanes, and the current improvements will ensure that laying the pavement and moving the curb will be all that’s required before road expansion.

“This reduces additional costs to all Overland Park taxpayers and disruption of neighbors’ lives when the additional lanes are added in the future,” she said.

While much of the land slated for road improvements is vacant, around 40 parcels were affected by the city’s plans.

The city filed a petition for eminent domain on three tracts of land, including Hamblin’s, Ralph said.

Prior to the appraiser hearing, the city settled with one of the property owners. Another property owner, James Engle Custom Homes, rejected an original offer of $1,200 for several easements. Court appraisers valued that property at $1,836.

Ralph said the city has accepted and paid the new amounts.

Court appraisers also allowed Hamblin to keep several of the trees he had hoped to save. He calls that the real “victory” and does not expect to appeal.

But he’s still dismayed by the precedent of the city seizing land for projects so far in the future. And he pointed out that Kansas law does not entitle him to recover legal fees from the city.

“My biggest concern is that as the first challenger of the first road of this (new plan),” he said, “what are they going to change to ensure that every other future resident doesn’t have to hire an attorney to get just compensation?”

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