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Monday, May 24, 2010

Madison Names Price for Bike Trail Land Acquisition

On the agenda for tonight's Madison City Commission meeting: discussion of the how much the city will pay landowners for allowing construction of the Lake Herman Recreation Trail on their land.

You have page through nineteen liquor license applications to get to it, but on page 45 of the agenda packet, you can find out how much the city plans to offer David Pitts and other landowners for the privilege of taking the right of way permanently out of their use.

If I'm understanding what's written in the city's "acquisition formulas," each landowner gets $500 up front. Then the city goes to Shirley Ebsen's office at the courthouse, gets the highest per-acre assessed value of the land in question, and multiplies by 2.

For temporary easements (the land the city will need to run the equipment up and down along the construction route), the city multiplies that land value by 20%. The city will add another 10% for crop damage.

For permanent easements, the city multiplies the land value by 140%.

Now I haven't taken the tape measure out to David Pitts's land, but I'm guessing the rec trail would slice about three acres off the east edge of his land. Let's wild-guess the value at $3000 an acre. By the above formula, the permanent easement for that strip of land would be the following:
  • $3000 x 2 x 1.4 x 3 = $25,200.
What do you say, David (and fellow farmers): is that price enough to seal the deal?

And if it isn't, is the city willing to go higher? Is this bike trail worth paying the price the market will demand? And if not, will the city risk the political fallout of eminent domain?

A bike trail would be nice. It would draw tourists and boost economic development. But as I heard a wiser financial head than myself say this week, the bike trail is a want, not a need. The city tonight will make clear the price it wants to pay. If David Pitts doesn't want to accept that price, then so be it. Eminent domain should not follow.

By the way, I went for a couple of bike rides this weekend. Both days I rode the county road that parallels most of the proposed bike route, 234th Street, from Lake Herman State Park to Madison, just as I have for 21 years. Nice smooth road, traffic generally light and polite. Sure, I'd enjoy another path, but I can get where I want to go now just fine with the existing infrastructure. Of course, if the county would like to widen the shoulders, I wouldn't complain. David Pitts might not, either.

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