The Farmington Road streetscape is slated to begin in the spring of 2022, contingent upon gaining temporary easement access from two corporate entities — Chase Bank and CVS Pharmacy — along the streetscape route.

The Farmington Road streetscape is slated to begin in the spring of 2022, contingent upon gaining temporary easement access from two corporate entities — Chase Bank and CVS Pharmacy — along the streetscape route.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Corporate entities cause minor hurdle for Farmington Road project

By: Jonathan Shead | Farmington Press | Published September 4, 2020

 Businesses along Farmington Road in downtown will see improvements to the streetscape outside of their shops coming in 2022.

Businesses along Farmington Road in downtown will see improvements to the streetscape outside of their shops coming in 2022.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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FARMINGTON — When it comes to the Farmington Road streetscape, a project that’s been a longstanding objective for city administrators and council members, there’s good news and not so good news.

The City Council and Downtown Development Authority board members met Aug. 24 to discuss moving forward with the streetscape project and how to advance past two hurdles that have managed to surface along the project’s path to completion.

The first of two was the need to receive approval from the State Historic Preservation Office for the design of the project, and there were concerns that state agencies were moving at a snail’s pace due to COVID-19. City administrators discussed a few strategies that may expedite the approval, but it turned out none of that was needed. Not even 24-hours after their meeting, the State Historic Preservation Office returned with approval of the project, DDA Director Kate Knight said.

The second of the two issues discussed Aug. 24 was the holdout of two corporate entities, Chase Bank and CVS Pharmacy, from providing the city temporary easement licenses to work on their parcels during constructions. Of the nine total easement acquisitions required to progress, the city has acquired seven, leaving the two corporate stakeholders the only ones left.

“We ask for a donation, for like $1. We ask if they could please give us the temporary easement, and that just means we might be able to drive some equipment into that space or set up a cone that is in their drive space or the sidewalk in front of their property,” Knight said. “There’s no permanent acquiring of goods or property. It’s just to allow us to temporarily step on their lawn when we’re doing the project.”

Farmington Assistant City Attorney Beth Saarela explained that it’s common for corporate entities to deny easement access up front without a due diligence process. The city has offered an informal monetary amount for what they believe the easement’s value is at each business, though representatives have still denied turning over access to the city for the forthcoming construction.

CVS Spokesperson Matthew Blanchette said via email Sept. 3, “We are awaiting a copy of the draft easement for review.”

Chase Bank spokesperson Carlene Lule said via email Sept. 4, “We’re big fans of the overall beautification project and are working with the city on details to make sure it works for our customers and the community.”

The City Council and DDA board members unanimously authorized the city attorneys to begin acquiring a formal appraisal value of the property sought. Once that value is determined, the city will return to Chase and CVS to offer that amount, though if the businesses still deny, which city officials expect to happen, the city will have to move into litigation, ultimately causing them to spend money for professional services for which the city hadn’t originally budgeted.

City Finance Director and Treasurer Chris Webber said the council and board each have $50,000 within their fiscal year budgets to spend on professional services. Appraisals, title work and good faith offer documents are expected to cost up to $10,000, split evenly between the DDA and the council. Any pending litigation beyond that may cost more, though City Attorney Thomas Shultz doesn’t believe either body would be in jeopardy of going over their professional services budget to acquire the easements.

Once the city files a complaint with the courts under the Uniform Condemnation Procedures Act to fight for acquisition of the easements, each corporation will have 28 days to challenge the necessity of the project, which Saarela said is hard to prove. After that 28-day-period expires, the city would receive the easement access, and all that would be left to determine would be the actual value to be paid to each corporate entity.

“When you have a corporate entity, they’re looking at it like a business transaction. They typically feel like they have to have all the levels of review from a corporate side to make sure they’re getting the correct business value of their property,” Saarela said. “I don’t necessarily see it as them trying to be adversarial, but I do see it as corporate policy to follow the procedures of the act.”

Knight acknowledged that it’s a bit frustrating to have to jump through these hoops, but she said she believes that, in the end, it’ll be worth it.

“We feel we’re really improving the entire streetscape section. There’s so much more of a focus on walkability, connectivity and pedestrian safety, and nonmotorized thoroughfares into town,” she said. “The benefits we’ll reap as a result of this streetscape are definitely worth what could potentially be a few extra weeks’ delay in seeking a very formal legal path forward.”

With construction of the project slated to begin in April 2022, OHM Consultant Matt Parks doesn’t believe pending litigation would put a wrench in the city’s current timeline and steps to move the project forward.

“There is quite a bit of lead time and contingent time on the schedule right now. Going forward, if we start backing up two, three (or) four months, then we’re really going to be pinched and there won’t be any time to spare,” Parks said at the Aug. 24 meeting. “Right now, I don’t want to say we have a ton of extra time, but there’s some time built in there.”

For more information, visit farmgov.com.

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