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Essex Junction exploring eminent domain for 'Crescent Connector'

(WCAX)
Published: Jun. 4, 2019 at 5:52 PM EDT
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Will Essex Junction have to use eminent domain to finish a project designed to fix traffic troubles?

The Crescent Connector project -- set to begin in about a year -- is designed to ease traffic through the Five Corners area, by routing cars from Route 2A over to Route 15, bypassing the main intersection entirely.

To build that road though, the village and VTrans needed to buy up some land that the new road would run along, and get permission from the railroad. And they've just about done that. Unified Village & Town Manager Evan Teich says the railroad appears to be on board with their end of the project, but they are still working with two landowners who have not agreed to sell.

Reporter Cat Viglienzoni: What is the hangup?

Evan Teich: The value of the property we need to acquire from them. There's a process where you go through an appraisal, and they feel that that appraisal is too low for the value of the property. And we'll work it out with them... you can't just give anything to anybody. But as long as it's close and you don't want to go through all the next legal steps and you could save some money and time, there's that wiggle room.

There is a hearing next month for the village and VTrans to start the process of eminent domain by proving necessity. The government is allowed to take land with fair compensation to the owners if they can prove that the land is needed for the public good. In this case, officials say, it's needed to solve traffic troubles.

One of the landowners told WCAX he's actually not opposed to the project, but he says there were several concerns he wanted addressed before he moved forward. One of the big ones is access to businesses on the property for customers during construction. Another is about future use of the property once the road is put in. But he says he's confident that he will eventually be able to work out some sort of agreement with the town.

The village development director says expect the railroad will get its work done over the summer and fall and that they hope to put the project out to bid in December or January in order to have the Crescent Connector done by the end of the 2020 construction season.

Officials say they eventually hope to close Main Street in Five Corners to make it a pedestrian walkway. They say that would involve a lot more discussions with businesses before moving forward.