The Times Herald
The brother and sister inherited the Port Huron home when their father died several years ago. Now, they could be forced to move based on the newest plan for the Blue Water Bridge Plaza expansion.
"We don't want to move," said Marvin Beadle, 42, looking at a map of the plan, part of the project's final environmental impact statement released Tuesday.
"We want to keep our property," said Verna Beadle, 50.
The Beadles are among a small group of homeowners -- about a dozen -- who, under a previous plaza plan, would have stayed in their homes and not been included in the project's footprint. Among those homeowners, there is conflict about what is best: to have their property bought at a premium by the state or to remain in their homes.
Local officials fought for the homes -- located in two clusters on the south side of the plaza -- to be bought, fearing that if left behind, residents would have to endure years of construction and then life on the fringes of a major international border crossing.
Project Manager Matt Webb said the Michigan Department of Transportation did its best to affect as few people as possible. In all, 125 homeowners, 30 businesses and one church will be displaced in the $553 million expansion.
"We went back and tried to reduce the footprint and make it as small as possible," he said.
St. Clair County Administrator Shaun Groden said the message officials received from residents left behind by the previous plan was: "Oh my God, they are leaving us behind, and we are going to have to live in this monstrosity."
He said people were upset about what Port Huron City Councilman Jim Fisher once described as the "Swiss cheese" effect: Two pockets of homes left behind.
The project will bring to ground level and increase the size of the plaza from 18 to 56 acres. The 56-acre plan, officials said, is much better than the 90-acre one proposed several years ago and better than the 65-acre plan proposed last year.
During the comment period for the draft environmental impact statement, the majority of the homeowners in the area where the Beadles live said they would rather have their houses razed than be left behind, Webb said.
There are some perks to being relocated. The state will pay moving costs and 125% of fair-market value for owner-occupied homes, Webb said. For other homes, such as rentals, owners will get fair-market value, he said.
Meanwhile, state Rep. John Espinoza, D-Croswell, introduced legislation Thursday that would give tax incentives to people and businesses that develop the area once plaza construction is finished.
The plaza plan released Tuesday will be open for public comment through May 4. Then, the Federal Highway Administration is expected to issue a "Record of Decision," which will, among other things, allow the state to move forward with acquiring properties.
Construction, which will begin with rebuilding 2 ½ miles of the Interstate 69/94 expressway, is set to start in 2011 and wrap up in 2016 or 2017.
The single most pressing problem is getting the project determined with certainty and soon. Delay in deciding what is to be taken will leave the Port Huron neighborhoods surrounding the Bridge in shamble.