LOUISVILLE — The historic property that has been a point of controversy for the Ohio River Bridges Project has been purchased by the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.

A deal was reached for the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet to buy the 50-acre historic Drumanard Estate on the east-end portion of the Ohio River Bridges Project for $8.3 million Friday. Under the record-of-decision, a proposed 2,000-foot tunnel is set to run under the property as part of the Kentucky approach to the east-end bridge.

Attempts have been made to delist the historic property from the National Register of Historic Places to avoid constructing a tunnel — estimated to cost $255 million, according to the appendix of the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement — and cut nearly 20 percent out of the total $1.28 billion cost for the east-end portion of the project.

Indiana, in an agreement reached between the two states, is responsible for constructing the east-end portion of the bridges project, but each state is responsible for securing their respective right-of-ways.

In an interview following a bridges project meeting, Kentucky Transportation Cabinet Spokesman Chuck Wolfe said the state was looking to buy the property “because that’s what we usually do.”

He explained, “in this particular case, the transportation cabinet’s obligation under the record-of-decision was to seek a preservation easement on that property. My understanding is the owners were not agreeable to that. So, therefore, it became a better approach to just buy it from them and eliminate any of that uncertainty.”

The deal reached with the Soterion Corp. on Friday was to purchase the property at about $1.5 million more than the cabinet’s fair-market value appraisal of $6.8 million. According to documents filed with the Jefferson County, Ky., Clerk, the property was purchased by the Soterion Corp. in 2000 for a price of $2.9 million. Closing of the purchase is set to occur on or before April 17, according to a cabinet press release.

“This was a negotiated purchase,” Wolfe said during a telephone interview Saturday. “It was acceptable to the cabinet.”

Other provisions included in the deal allow for the person living at the property to continue to occupy the home and a 19-acre portion of the estate. The person will effectively become the state’s tenant, Wolfe said. Under the agreement, they will be allowed to live in the home rent free for one year. If they choose to remain after that time, they will be charged $2,700 per month in rent for one year, and beyond two years, it would become a month-to-month arrangement.

Once the tunnel construction is complete and the cabinet no longer needs the property, it will again be offered up for sale.

“We will put a preservation easement on the property and at some point in the future attempt to sell it,” Wolfe said.

But with the state owning the property, many of those who have called to have the tunnel removed from the plan and pursue another option for construction are again raising their concerns.

However, as cited in the Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement, the cheapest alternative — an open cut — would reduce the overall size of the Drumanard Property by 11.5 acres, along with its tax base. In addition, the statement cited permanent adverse impacts on the historic property and nearby communities.

“Proximity effects for nearby developments — Bridgepointe, Shadow Wood and the Harbors — would be greater for the open cut than for either tunnel,” according to the statement. “The open cut would have greater impacts on the Prospect and Harrods Creek communities during the construction phase and during the permanent operations of the new facility.”

Wolfe reiterated what transportation officials have long claimed would happen to the project if changes were made at this point in the project.

“You can’t do that under the environmental restrictions of the project,” he said in a previous interview. “You would be going back practically to square one on the environmental aspect of the east-end portion of the project and you would be adding years to the project which nobody wants. It would not be the cost-saver people think it is,” he said, referring to removing the tunnel and the inflationary costs that would come with delaying the project. “This was the decision that was made after a public process many years ago, so it went in and became part of the record-of-decision and that’s what we have to deal with.”
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