The City of Keene is considering another eminent domain proceeding related to the Winchester Street reconstruction project.
Months after approving the acquisition of portions of two properties near the intersection of Winchester Street and Key Road by eminent domain, the city will now weigh whether to use a similar process to gain access to a portion of the Riverside Plaza property across the street. City Engineer Don Lussier said the city needs access to about 525 square feet of the property for the purpose of constructing a roundabout and sidewalks at the intersection.
Unlike the owners of 345 Winchester St., owned by Sandri Companies, and 333 Winchester St., owned by Keene Retail Inc., the owners of the Riverside Plaza have been supportive of the reconstruction project, Lussier said. However, they’re still asking that the city go through the eminent domain process due to legal issues.
“Their lawyers looked at their lease agreements and their mortgage agreement, and they released they weren’t able to voluntarily sell ... without having to go though a legal process,” Lussier said Thursday during a meeting of the Keene City Council’s Finance, Organization and Personnel Committee. “So they essentially requested that we use the eminent domain procedure so that they didn’t have to renegotiate leases and mortgages.”
Eminent domain is the process by which a government can take private property by force if the property will be put to public use and as long as the landowner receives fair compensation. This process was used earlier this year when the council voted to take portions of the two Winchester Street properties over objections from representatives of both companies who claimed that the Winchester Street reconstruction project would limit access to the businesses.
The project will involve replacing the existing four-way intersection at Key Road, Winchester Street and the entrance to the plaza with a roundabout, which officials expect will alleviate traffic congestion. This is part of a larger project that will also include adding a roundabout at the intersection of Winchester, Island and Pearl streets as well as replacing the Island Street bridge.
A public hearing on the Riverside Plaza eminent domain proceeding has been scheduled for June 17. The FOP Committee voted to table the matter until after a public hearing and a site visit have been completed.