There was a time when the Public Safety Plan and new justice center, to be located north of Taco Time, dominated much of the local news. There was uproar about the impact on small businesses that have to relocate. We have not heard much lately because things have pretty much settled down. So what happened?
The Public Safety Plan bond was voter-approved in 2016. In the last quarter of 2017, after a thorough assessment of potential sites, the city approved the planned location and began eminent domain proceedings with the property owners. In 2017 there was no requirement to compensate business owners who rent space.
Effective in 2018, the state amended the eminent domain law to require relocation compensation for businesses even if they are just renting space. The city was wise to initiate this project before the amended statute took effect. This allowed the city to opt out of providing formal business relocation costs subject to state law. After all, in some cases, the relocation costs are open-ended with no ceiling. A scary thought. So this gave the city more flexibility in negotiations and more control over what the final costs of business relocation might turn out to be. Put another way, the city wanted to help out the businesses to the degree that it could without being required to do so.
But it was also about speeding up the project and saving money. It was to the benefit of property owners and businesses that the construction industry is going strong and construction costs are rapidly escalating. Eminent domain proceedings and legal appeals can slow down the process and delay construction. Along with increased legal fees, it was estimated by the city’s construction consultants that every month of delay would result in over $100,000 in increased costs. While it is not clear to me what the final settlement costs turned out to be, the result is that the city now has possession of all required properties. The city can now move forward without delay on the project. Construction is planned to begin in April of this year. When one considers that the project location was approved in the last quarter of 2017, it is remarkable that the city has worked through the process this quickly and is about to start construction.