Stewartville council makes $10,000 offer for land to complete Fourth Street
STEWARTVILLE — Ten thousand dollars is not enough.
Daniel Ware said he will reject the city of Stewartville’s offer to buy a 66-by-66-foot section of his property in order to connect two sides of Fourth Avenue Southeast in the 500 block. On either side of his property, the residential street dead-ends.
“I just don’t want to sell the property,” said Ware, who lives on a one-acre parcel that stretches from Fifth Avenue Southeast to a spot parallel with Third Avenue Southeast.
Ware’s house, which is close to Fifth Avenue, has been in his family for decades, and the property has been owned by the family for more than 100 years. He lives on one side, but grows food in a series of gardens on the other end of the property.
He also spends quite a bit of each day in a shed on the west side of his property.
If Fourth Avenue was completed through his property, Ware, who is more than 80 years old, said he would cross the street several times a day to access his gardens and shed.
“What really upsets me is those four members of the council never came out and checked the property,” he said, referring to the city council members who, along with Mayor Jimmie-John King, voted unanimously Tuesday night to make the offer for the section of Ware’s property, despite being told repeatedly he does not want to sell.
Stewartville City Administrator Bill Schimmel said the city has several reasons for wanting to acquire the land and connect the two ends of Fourth Avenue.
In addition to the saving money by connecting the road while the city is already working in the area next year, a connected Fourth Avenue would make it easier for plowing, seal coating and other maintenance issues. It could also ease traffic near Bonner Elementary School in the mornings.
The city had the piece of land it wants to acquire assessed at $7,200, but the council raised its offer to $10,000. The city would also waive all assessments to Ware on the road project that is scheduled to begin next year.
“We’ve had a chance to visit with him verbally,” Schimmel said, adding that the council vote gives Ware a written offer to consider. “I truly do want to see what he says. He might have counter offer ideas.”
Ware said $100,000 likely wouldn’t be enough. “I don’t got that many more years to live,” he said.
If Ware formally rejects the offer or just ignores the offer, Schimmel said after 60 days the city council will have another decision to make. It can either abandon its plans to connect Fourth Avenue or it can file for an eminent domain hearing. Then a judge or mediator would be assigned, and a hearing date would need to be set.
In case a court decision goes down to the wire next spring, the city is preparing alternative plans for the road, Schimmel said.
Ware said the city is full of dead ends and cul de sacs, so why the city council seems so determined to pave through his property is a mystery.
And he’s not alone in thinking so. Ware presented the city council with a signed petition of 25 neighbors representing 22 different households who have said they are against the proposed right-of-way acquisition for Fourth Avenue Southeast.
“You’re dealing with people who are unscrupulous,” said Ware, referring to the city council, which continues to ask for his land despite repeatedly being told no thank you. “I just want to live in peace here. I just don’t want to split it up.”