Provo City Council considering ’eminent domain’ for Lakeview Parkway

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Provo City Council members will vote on Dec. 6 on whether or not the city can use eminent domain — the right to seize private property for the public good — to build the Lakeview Parkway and Trail project.

A dotted line on the projected city outline of the west side of Provo indicates where Lakeview Parkway would be built. (Provo Open City Hall)

City engineer David Graves has worked on the project since 2008. Graves said Lakeview Parkway is just one part of the “transportation master plan for the city.”

Graves and other workers have negotiated for several years with residents in affected neighborhoods. The project will have an especially large effect on the farms dotting the outer city. One such farm is McCoard’s.

Since 2011, McCoard’s has held a fall festival, which includes a corn maze, zipline, pumpkin patch, hay rides and more. The Lakeview Parkway project is designed to cut through the middle of the corn maze.

Farm owner Harry McCoard said roughly 20,000 people attended the festival and about 6,000 pumpkins were sold during fall 2016. He said the festival also provided around 60 jobs to young people.

While McCoard said the corn maze is not the main source of the farm’s income, it is still a valuable asset. The main source of income is selling flowers and other plants during the warmer parts of the year.

“We don’t have much money coming in in the fall because we don’t sell many flowers, so the corn maze has really helped our business in that it’s given us a source of income in the fall,” McCoard said.

McCoard doesn’t think the Lakeview Parkway is needed. He said it would bisect the McCoard property, in the middle of where the fall festival takes place.

The city offered to buy the roughly two acres required to build the road, but McCoard said they didn’t offer to compensate for the loss of revenue.

“Even though it’s two acres they’re taking, it’s a valuable two acres to the fall festival,” McCoard said.

Graves said the parkway will particularly benefit residents on the west side of Provo who have limited access to the east side because of I-15. He said the planning has been long and deliberate.

“We go through a public process and try to evaluate all of the impacts to the areas where projects are located,” Graves said.

He said this includes measuring the impact on neighborhoods and local residents and not just the environmental impact.

Graves said a few property owners have agreed to give up the portion of their land the parkway will require, but the city is still waiting on other property owners.

The city council will decide within about six months whether or not the mayor and his team can use eminent domain in the case of property owners refusing to give up their land.

City Council Chair Kim Santiago said in the case of using eminent domain, property owners are monetarily compensated for their land. She confirmed city engineers have made negotiations with property owners.

As to how she will vote, Santiago said she is still in the information-gathering process.

“(Eminent domain) is sort of a very last resort,” Santiago said. “It does allow the city to move forward on a necessary project.”

McCoard’s put a plea on Instagram for people to call city council members and encourage them to vote against the use of eminent domain.

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