Lee County expects the Three Oaks Parkway Extension project to improve traffic flow by extending Three Oaks Parkway to Daniels Parkway, providing a parallel route to Interstate 75. The county filed an eminent domain lawsuit for property included in the project last week.
Designed and expected to be completed in two phases, the first phase of the project includes roadway north of Alico Road from Fiddlesticks Canal to the vicinity of Indian Pony Drive.
“Even back in 2013, the Department of Transportation briefed commissioners and told us that this project, the Three Oaks Parkway Extension, was one of their No. 1 priorities,” Lee County Chairman Brian Hamman said.
The project continues to be a tier one priority project for county commissioners today, said Betsy Clayton, director of the county’s Office of Communications.
Construction for phase one is anticipated to begin this summer, with the eminent domain lawsuit having no immediate impact on the project.
The lawsuit comes into play in phase two with the county needing to acquire land, which is owned by a trust.
Kenneth Jones, senior counsel at Hahn Loeser Law Firm who represents the trustee, said a hearing will take place for an order of taking.
“When governments are building roads and things like that, they don’t want to have to wait for however long it takes to get through the litigation,” he said. “What the order of taking is, is an order from the court that says ‘Government, we’re going to let you have the property now, but you need to deposit with the court your estimate of the value of the property being taken.’”
If the court determines the government’s appraisal value is valid and the government is acting in good faith, then the order is granted. From there, the property owner can withdraw that money and use it while litigation of how much more the property owner is entitled to continues.
“The government gets the property, they can begin their project and the property owner gets at least an initial amount of money and they can use the money while the county is building their road,” Jones said.
The county’s appraisal estimate was $4,127,300, Jones said. Now, the trustee will complete analyses to determine its appraisal value. “Somehow that will get worked out between the county and the property owner, either through a resolution, through mediation or trial,” Jones said.
He estimates the order of taking process will take a few months, while the lawsuit will take anywhere between nine months to two years for completion.
“My client is pleased that the county is finally getting around to taking the property,” Jones said. “It’s been years that the county has been saying they were going to take the property and it is caused my client the inability to develop the property for all those years.”
The project is expected to improve traffic, transportation safety and evacuation routes, especially since Lee County’s population is quickly approaching 1 million residents.
“Ultimately, the landowner gets made whole and the county, the citizens of Lee County get the land they need to build the road connection that they need,” Hamman said.