Bypass delayed

Hollister
– The Highway 25 bypass could be delayed for more than a year as
Council of Government members moved to avoid a legal showdown with
property owners along the proposed route.
Hollister – The Highway 25 bypass could be delayed for more than a year as Council of Government members moved to avoid a legal showdown with property owners along the proposed route.

In an attempt to satisfy property owners, who thought COG was not offering a high enough price for their land, and avoid a costly and time-consuming legal battle, the COG Board chose to quash the eminent domain process begun earlier this year and seek new appraisals for 13 pieces of land needed for the bypass, according to COG Executive Director Tom Quigley.

“We don’t have any reason to have a belief that the appraisals were done wrong, but the land owners challenged it and said we low-balled it,” Quigley said. “We’re going to do a second appraisal and, based on that, review the offers.”

The amount of money offered to landowners varied depending on what type of land it is and how it is zoned, said COG Traffic Planner Mary Dinkuhn “It would have been a lot of money to go through litigation,” Quigley said, adding, “We want a sense of fairness.”

Once the bypass project is complete, Caltrans will cede control of San Benito Street – currently part of Highway 25 – to Hollister.

COG did not have to cease the eminent domain process – through which governments take land from private owners, who are compensated, for public use – in order to get new appraisals on the land, according to Dinkuhn. But, she said, COG was advised by it’s private legal counsel to stop the process and get new appraisals, “Due to a large number of concerns with procedures and concerns with property owners … various procedural issues.”

It will take about three months for COG to find a company to perform the new appraisals, which will then take about two and a half months to complete, Quigly said. Once the appraisals are done, COG will begin re-negotiating with the land owners. The entire process will delay the bypass project for one year to 15 months.

According to Dinkuhn, COG has acquired about 50 percent of the property needed for the bypass project, which is eventually supposed to create a new leg that circumvents Hollister’s downtown.

The plan has been in the works since at least 1988, when voters passed Measure A, pushing up the sales tax by a half-cent to help pay for highway improvements. Since then, the $24 million project has gotten $12 million from Measure A, $7 million in traffic impact fees and $4 million each in developer fees and federal funds.

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