BATTLE GROUND, Ore. -- For the first time in 50 years, the Dollar’s Corner area just west of Battle Ground does not have an operating drive-in restaurant.
O’Brady’s Drive In is now closed, driven out, its owner says, by a state project to widen the road.
The state and O’Brady’s owner have not been able to reach an agreement on how much money she should get for her property.
"You're supposed to get a fair price,” O'Brady's Drive-In owner Susie Brady told KGW Newschannel 8. “They offered me $291,000 for this corner which is not a fair price."
The state of Washington disagrees. Regional Administrator Don Wagner of the Washington State Department of Transportation also talked to KGW.
“The law says we have to compensate them fairly for the value of the property they currently own," Wagner said, adding that an independent appraisal is what the agency offers property owners when they have to buy their land to make room for a wider road.
"It's tough and I feel very sorry for lots of the folks out there. The values have dropped, [and] by law I can't use an appraisal that's older than two years old, " Wagner said.
The $88-million project widening what's known as the Battle Ground Highway has been in the works for more than a decade. Wagner said WSDOT has already purchased about half of the 180 properties it needs to buy in able to make room for a wider SR 502.
He said the project will turn the two-lane road into a multi-lane highway so it can handle the increased number of vehicles that now use the road. Wagner said that will make it safer as well.
While many Battle Ground citizens support the project some businesses and homeowners don't agree with the amount of money WSDOT is offering them for their property.
"I could not find any open property on a corner like this for that amount [$291,000]," said Susie Brady. "I own this [the building] and I own the property and I won't be able to do this with their offer. “
"I've seen that Department of Transportation screw the people along this road I mean it's been awful," said local realtor C.J. Monroe.
"They're not being fair to the business owners, they should step up to the plate and pay them a fair price for their property," said Joe Cryblskey, who owns Joe's Body & Fender.
Wagner said the law is clear: the state can only purchase the property it needs to widen the road. In the case of Brady, that means WSDOT will only pay for her parking lot, not her building or her business.
While WSDOT admits that without her parking lot she will be out of business, they said they also have a responsibility to be prudent with taxpayer money, and to follow the law. That means only paying for O’Brady’s parking lot and not her building or her business.
Both Brady and Cryblskey said they’ll go to court to get what they consider the true fair market value of their property.