Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Set to Condemn Land for Drainage Project

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

City Set to Condemn Land for Drainage Project

Article excerpt

After nine years of delays and the memory of last month's

citywide flooding fresh in their minds, Jacksonville City

Council members are poised to start condemning land for a

drainage project in Wills Branch Creek.

"We can't wait," said Councilman Mike Hogan, who represents the

Wills Branch area. "We don't have a choice. We have to move on

this now."

The council will vote Tuesday on whether to begin eminent

domain proceedings to take immediate title to the land. The

legal action may be needed because the city has been unable to

reach agreements with at least 13 families to buy their land.

The $2.6 million project is designed to ease repeated flooding

in the Hyde Grove Acres neighborhood by deepening and widening

the silt-filled creek. Project holdouts say they have no quarrel

with that goal.

"I love where I live and I don't want it to flood anymore,"

said Dan McGrath of 6832 Bakersfield Drive. "I'm willing to do

what it takes, but the city is telling me one thing and doing

something else."

McGrath said he hired a lawyer because he couldn't get answers

to his questions about two different surveys done on his

property.

Other residents' disputes revolve around the value of

improvements. In some cases, land needed for the project

includes not just plain strips of grass in backyards but

people's pools and sheds and landscaping.

But the City Council may be in no mood to negotiate. Heavy

storms that caused $3.6 million damage throughout Jacksonville

last month have left all members acutely sensitive to charges of

foot-dragging on any city drainage project.

After the storm, Mayor John Delaney speeded up the city's time

line for building a planned $66 million worth of drainage

improvements funded by a bond issue approved by the council in

January. …

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