Back-Seat Driver

Eminent domain set for road projects in Fair Oaks, Carmichael

Sacramento County real estate officials have been given the green light to use eminent domain law to acquire parts of 34 properties along Hazel Avenue in Fair Oaks, and Fair Oaks Boulevard in Carmichael as part of two major road improvement projects.

Fourteen of those mandated purchases, approved by the county Board of Supervisors, will take place this winter for portions of properties that front Hazel Avenue to make room for crews to install underground utilities next year, starting in late spring. The acquisitions and utility construction represent the final steps before construction begins to widen Hazel from four lanes to six lanes.

The actual road widening, which will include sidewalks and bike lanes, will take place in two installments over several years. The section of Hazel between Curragh Downs Drive, just north of the American River, and Sunset Avenue will occur in 2016.

Work is expected to resume in 2018 to widen the section of Hazel from Sunset north to Madison to six lanes. There is no money budgeted to widen the road north of Madison, project engineer Steve White said. The county likely will solicit funds at some point to do that work.

The current expected property purchases along Hazel are described as small and will not involve purchase of any buildings. The county previously purchased and knocked down 41 houses on Hazel to create most of the room needed for the widening. Crews also previously widened the Hazel Avenue bridge over the American River to six lanes. When the full widening project is finished, the new Hazel will have sidewalks separated from the vehicle traffic, bike lanes and pullout areas for buses.

Similarly, county officials are gearing up to remake Fair Oaks Boulevard in the heart of Carmichael, adding sidewalks and bus turnout lanes. The project will require the county to buy slices of 20 properties. The Board of Supervisors last month gave county negotiators the right to buy the properties via eminent domain if the county and property owners cannot come to a mutual sales agreement.

The project area runs from 400 feet south of Landis Avenue to Engle Road on the north, next to Carmichael Park. Business leaders in the area are promoting the project as a way to create a more accessible and better functioning business district in Carmichael.

Some landowners have expressed concern that the project will bring traffic and sidewalks close to their properties. In response to one apartment manager’s concern, the county will pay to install large boulders between the sidewalk and several apartments to protect them from the possibility of cars jumping the curb.

County officials say the two projects are part of an ongoing effort to modernize some older residential and commercial areas of the county in hopes that the investments will improve property values and draw more businesses.

“That is an ongoing theme for the board and the county – to fix important roadways and to encourage reinvestment in our existing neighborhoods,” said county planning director Leighann Moffitt.

Call The Bee’s Tony Bizjak, (916) 321-1059.