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Detour dilemma: property owner raises concerns over parish bridge project

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BATON ROUGE - The City Parish plans to replace a bridge off of O'Neal Lane and will need to borrow property for a detour while that work happens. One of the property owners involved isn't happy with the city's offer or the explanation of the project details and contacted 2 On Your Side for help.

As Paul Johnson understands it, the city is going to build a temporary bridge and a temporary road going through his front yard.

"An engineer came out with the City Parish and I asked him how is this going to look, I have to try to plan because I have to be able to access that side of the house to get to the back yard," Johnson said.

When Johnson purchased the near two-acre lot in 2017 he was told at his closing that the parish intended to replace the bridge on Strain Road. He waited for that work to happen and eventually started building his home in 2020 taking into consideration a preliminary map provided to him by the parish. He moved into the house a short time later.

In February 2022, Johnson says he was contacted by an appraiser and an offer was made in June. The offer was for $1,516 to rent the land and $4,250 for the cost to cure. The city says the offer includes the installation and removal of requested safety barriers.

Johnson considered the offer and submitted a counteroffer but didn't get the response he was hoping for.

"They were like, we're not considering anything, everything is going as planned, you need to sign the first offer and send it to us," he said.

If he doesn't, the parish will expropriate. Johnson then has the option to take the city to court and a judge will decide on the final value to be compensated to him as required by law.

Johnson has a lot of unanswered questions, including where exactly the road will be going and how close it will come to his porch.

Now he's worried he's at the mercy of the parish without a real explanation. Meanwhile, he's waiting to finish the rest of his home building plans which include covered parking, a driveway, and backyard improvements. He's concerned he won't have vehicle access to his backyard during the duration of his project, which will slow down his plans.

"We're planning on a pool, patio covers, everything gets put on hold," he said.

Johnson is hoping the parish will consider revising the project to use less of his property. If not, help with the costs during and after bridge construction.

Johnson has been given an additional 30 days to sign off on the project with the hopes of finding a qualified appraiser to submit his official appraisal to the city. Transportation and Drainage Director Fred Raiford tells 2 On Your Side's Brittany Weiss that he plans to meet with Johnson about his concerns.

The federally-funded Strain Road Bridge project has been in design for about three years.



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