By Ann Briggs
We work with property owners to purchase land needed
for highway improvements, such as this roundabout.
We auction off properties that are no longer needed for highway purposes. Often, these surplus properties are strips of land next to a highway, parcels that were used for construction and are no longer needed, or former pit, quarry and maintenance sites.
Occasionally a large parcel such as the 55-acre lot in the city of Renton, which is now being offered for bids, is placed on the auction block. We bought the site in the late 1950s and used it as sand and gravel pit.
Revenue from the sale of surplus properties goes back to the motor vehicle fund to be used for transportation purposes. Since 2009, the surplus property program has generated more than $20 million. That money is made available to city, county and state agencies to fund road, street and highway projects.
What’s a first step in building a road? Having someplace to put itA key difference in our buying process that you might not experience when buying a house, is the property we’re looking at is usually not on the market for sale. We try to find transportation solutions that have the least amount of impact on homes and businesses, but that’s not always possible, especially in urban areas. That’s where our Real Estate Services team steps in.
Just as your real estate agent looks at comparable home sales in the area when you are buying or selling a home, we do the same when establishing a fair value for the property we want to acquire. We use a market analysis for properties under $25,000 and do a full appraisal for anything over. With this information, we begin good faith negotiations (pdf 367 kb) with the owner. At times, we may enlist a third-party mediator if negotiations stall. Only when all else fails, do we use the state’s right of eminent domain and go through condemnation proceedings.
When a property is acquired, the state pays all taxes and fees that would normally be charged to the seller. The reason is that the seller did not initiate the sale – we did. If a property is acquired and affects the ability of the occupancy to continue, we help the owner, tenant or business find a replacement property, cover all costs associated with moving and even help renters with payments for a set number of months, if they are relocated to a higher-cost rental unit.
It’s our job to ensure that we make good use of taxpayers’ money and deliver needed transportation improvements, but we also recognize that property owners have invested a great deal – monetarily and emotionally – in their property. In the end, we want them to come away feeling that they were treated fairly.