WILMINGTON — The city has secured another parcel needed to move forward with a road improvement project off Oleander Drive, yet more than three dozen remain to be settled.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Wilmington City Council unanimously approved its consent agenda, which included a resolution authorizing a settlement agreement for condemnation. The $155,962 is a supplemental appropriation for the landowners at 4914 Oleander Drive.
While the settlement has not been signed, Gina DiCicco and Wendy Rhodes could end up receiving $512,612 total for their property following months of negotiations.
It’s 43.7% more than what the city originally offered in September. A resolution approved by council Nov. 15 noted the city is authorized to acquire “the entire property” for the needs associated with Pine Grove North, an intersection realignment project on Oleander Drive.
However, the city said Friday the $365,560 — based on third-party appraisals — covered the cost of a portion of the property, 0.28 acres.
“The initial deposit only reflected the amount needed for right-of-way and easement, which was not 100% of the property,” city spokesperson Dylan Lee said. “The negotiations underway are for the entire property.”
The supplemental payment will cover the additional 0.19 acres, though it’s not needed for construction.
According to N.C. General Statute 40-A: “When the proposed project requires condemnation of only a portion of a parcel of land leaving a remainder of such shape, size or condition that it is of little value, a condemnor may acquire the entire parcel by purchase or condemnation.”
The 4914 Oleander parcel is located one block east of the current intersection. The city requires 0.134 acres for its proposed right-of-way and 0.132 acres for a proposed temporary construction easement, leaving a small fraction left.
Council’s approval for the supplemental funds was the first step, according to Lee. PCD asked the city twice if the supplemental funds were a result of a judge’s decision.
“The matter is still pending until a settlement agreement is in place,” Lee said. “The city is still working on a resolution. It takes time to resolve.”
The process to obtain all properties in the path of construction began about a year ago. The 0.47-acre tract is one of four full properties and 41 partial parcels the city needs to buy to complete the Pine Grove North project, approved and funded in the 2014 transportation bond.
The current intersection of Pine Grove and Oleander drives, the first past South College Road, will be reoriented. The city will reroute Pine Grove Drive near the Long Leaf Park entrance, constructing a road where homes are currently located, to create a new intersection that includes dual left-turn lanes.
Once construction is complete, the original Pine Grove and Oleander intersection will close and become a multi-use path for bikes and pedestrians.
There are still 38 acquisitions in process of settlement, but the city has doled out $630,000 so far for seven properties — two of which were complete parcels and none involved in the condemnation process, until now.
“Full property purchases are not as typical on city projects but partial ROW and easements are typical on most any transportation improvement projects that the city and/or NCDOT perform,” Lee said.
Last November, city council approved a resolution authorizing staff to proceed with legal action if negotiations for the sale of properties could not be settled. DiCicco and Rhodes were the last hold-out in the negotiation process.
According to New Hanover County property records, DiCicco and Rhodes purchased the 1,700-square-foot, three-bedroom home in 2005 for $168,000. It was valued at $209,900 in 2022.
On Nov. 21, the city filed a condemnation action in New Hanover County Superior Court to seek permanent possession of the land. If the property owner does not agree to settle, the government entity can move to condemnation through the courts under N.C. General Statute 136-9.
To begin an acquisition, an appraiser will contact the owner and come up with a valuation based on an inspection. Owners have one year from the date of summons served to file an answer to complaints.
The city plans to begin construction on Pine Grove North later this year pending acquisition completion, with a goal to be done by the third quarter of 2024. The original budget was $4.6 million, but the city needs an additional $4.7 million that has not yet been accounted for due to inflation and rise of construction and material cost.
The total estimated cost of construction is $9.2 million. The next steps are issuing a demo contract for the houses the city condemned.
The second phase of the Pine Grove improvements will include a dual-lane roundabout at Pine Grove Drive and Greenville Loop Road. It also includes intersection improvements at Holly Tree Road and Pine Grove Drive.
The project requires extensive coordination with Cape Fear Public Utility Authority, division engineer Denise Freund told council at a Jan. 30 budget workshop.
“Sewer, water and some pretty extensive storm drain systems empty out into the creek at this location — we have a pretty major culvert extension along with this project,” she added.
The city must acquire one full-take for right-of-way on the second portion of the project and expects to bid it out at the end of this year. Construction is expected to last through the second quarter of 2025.
“That sounds like a long time; that’s because this construction will be very challenging,” Freund told council at the workshop. “We need to maintain traffic while we build it, which means lane shifts, lane reductions, and a pretty lengthy construction duration.”
The cost estimate of Pine Grove South is $10.7 million, but the city only has $3.5 million budgeted at this time.
Rhodes and DiCicco did not wish to respond to a request for comment.
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