The stress, the agony and the long wait soon will be over for a handful of property owners along U.S. 89 in Davis County.
The Utah Transportation Commission on Thursday gave the goahead for the sale of $10 million in revenue bonds so the Utah Department of Transportation can start buying property along the highway corridor.UDOT plans to rebuild U.S. 89 into a six-lane expressway with six interchanges from Farmington to southern Weber County, affecting some 200 homes that stand in the way.
But the expansion won't happen for another 10 years or so. And that puts people like Sherman Smith in a bind.
Smith, 62, has had two heart attacks in the past two years. He wants to retire and sell his home so he and his wife can move into a smaller place.
"I'm looking to go south and get a condo where I don't need to handle the yard work and snow removal and everything that goes with it," said Smith, who works for a large insurance company.
The Smiths' 8-year-old home in Layton's Oakcrest subdivision is a desirable piece of residential property. But who would buy it knowing someday it will be paved over?
"UDOT said, `We'd like to buy your house but we haven't got any money,' " Smith said Thursday after learning his home is on the list of property UDOT will buy now.
"It's a very uneasy feeling to be in."
But that was before the 1998 legislative session. The Legislature passed a bill sponsored by Rep. Kevin Garn, R-Layton, authorizing UDOT to borrow up to $10 million to buy home and business property along U.S. 89 to resolve such hardship cases - and to avert a lawsuit filed on behalf of some property owners.
Thursday's action set that process in motion. By the end of the summer, UDOT hopes to have purchased at least 20 properties for a total cost of $8 million. Other land will be identified and purchased this year with the remaining $2 million.
That means Smith might be able to retire and head south by August, a month that hasn't been too kind to him. It was in August of the past two years that Smith suffered his heart attacks.
"This gives relief to those who have the greatest need for help," said Rod Terry, pre-construction engineer for UDOT's Region I, which covers most of Davis County and the U.S. 89 expansion corridor.
"Some have been waiting years to get to this point and have expended their own resources."
Doug Durbano, an attorney representing 15 Davis County landowners, said the question now is whether UDOT will fairly compensate the landowners. He said the Legislature's action and the Transportation Commission's decision Thursday sends a clear message that those in power intend to "take care of the people displaced by governmental action."
"I'm comfortable from my conversations with the people at UDOT that they realize they must take care of these people," Durbano said. "We're happy. We're pleased."
Three of Durbano's clients are on the list of 20 properties approved for purchase by the commission Thursday.
Here are the property owners whose land will be acquired using the special "preservation corridor" account:
Residences: Sherman F. Smith, Russell and Tammy Middleton, Mark Blair, Rodney and Gail Baune, Phyllis and Charles Miller, Sheri Despensa, Harold and Charlette Austin, Richard Bourne, Douglass Frost, Rudy Mata, Stan Delbridge, Ivory Homes (Gary M. Wright), William R. Lindstrom and Boyd Montgomery.
Businesses: Crestwood Growers Nursery and Zittos Restaurant.
Undeveloped land: Kay and Ruth Achter, Snow Canyon Business Park, Lotus Investments, Lewis Bautista and SKI Properties.
Those on the list should expect to hear from UDOT soon so negotiations on a purchase price can begin.