“At the end of the day you could go in front of a jury with this and anytime you go in front of jury you don’t know where you’re going to go,” said County Engineer Greg Wilkens. “You take your best shot and maybe cut your losses from what a jury would award.”
The $7 million widening project to make Tylersville Road at the Interstate 75 interchange in West Chester Twp. safer and less congested for the 50,000 drivers who travel it daily was done in two phases and was completed last summer. The construction cost was approximately $4.9 million, and property acquisition cost $3 million.
The county had to deposit $420,866 with the Butler County Common Pleas Court when it sued the fast food giant in February 2019 to get land that was needed for the second phase of the widening project. The deposit allowed the project to proceed while the parties haggled over the price.
The commissioners had a caveat to the approval. As part of the settlement, Wendy’s wanted to place a sign in the area where the county’s sanitary sewer system is located. Commissioner Don Dixon said the Wendy’s sign was not on the property the county took for the project, so he doesn’t know why it wants to locate a new sign in the county’s utility easement.
“They’ve got a whole extra lot that runs parallel to their parking lot, they can go anywhere they want to go in there and not be over our water lines,” Dixon said. “They can turn it any way they want to turn it, upside down, sideways, any way they want to do it.”
He amended the settlement approval with a condition that the location of the new sign must be approved by the board, Commissioner Cindy Carpenter concurred. Commissioner T.C. Rogers said he agreed with the settlement but not Dixon’s requirement.
“I think you have to approve the settlement,” Rogers said. “It could be a different figure if you don’t.”
Wendy’s lawyers could not be reached for comment. Wilkens told the Journal-News he doesn’t believe the amendment will be a deal-breaker.
The first phase of the Tylersville project began in 2015 to add a third eastbound thru lane from the Interstate 75 northbound exit ramp to Cox Road and included improvements to the intersection at Dudley Drive/Kingsgate Way with additional turn lanes and upgraded signals. The cost was $1.9 million.
Phase 2 was supposed to start in 2019 but Wilkens deferred it after bids came in too high. The project included adding a lane on the north side of the road from the interstate to Cox Road. To make that happen, access driveways to the rear of the eateries near Home Depot had to be moved. There are now two access roads to the rear service road, the existing one at Dudley Drive and a new one that runs through the old Sunoco gas station site.
The largest right-of-way purchase was $1.55 million for the Sunoco gas station, a price that was ultimately decided by an arbitrator after the issue went to court. A few property owners donated land for the project, and the lowest purchase was for $240.
Dixon told the Journal-News the amount of the settlement was hefty but necessary.
“The rules are the rules and the appraisal is the appraisal,” Dixon said. “It’s like a box of chocolates you never know what you’re going to get and what appraiser you’re going to get. It’s all the time different but, yes, it’s a lot of money.”