Two years ago, Karen and Richard Koenig didn't want to sell and move out of the home they had lived in for half a century.
Now, they no longer have a choice.
According to a letter from the company the city of Beaufort hired to buy land needed for its Boundary Street renovation project, the Koenigs have until Sept. 29 to move out of 2413 Boundary St.
"We didn't want to leave our home; that's where we've been for 50 years," Karen Koenig said.
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City attorney Tom Holloway said he's received a request from the Koenigs' attorney, Mike Macloskie, to delay that date. That could be negotiated, but the condemnation and seizure of the property will proceed.
Attempts Friday to reach Macloskie for comment were unsuccessful.
The land is needed for a road project by the city and Beaufort County, expected to begin in early 2015. Boundary Street will be redeveloped between Robert Smalls Parkway and Ribaut Road, and a parallel road will be constructed to the north to help traffic flow, according to plans.
That parallel road will go north from Robert Smalls Parkway, through where KFC is, and turn west where the Koenigs' home now sits. It will connect to Polk Street. Holloway said he is working on a settlement with attorneys for the KFC property.
State and federal laws allow municipalities, government agencies, utilities and other public organizations to use eminent domain to acquire property when necessary for a "public purpose." The laws require that "just compensation" be made to the property owners.
Karen Koenig said they were offered $73,400 for their property, but they don't believe an adequate appraisal was done. County property records show it is appraised at $123,800, including both the main parcel and a small, additional piece nearby that is part of the seizure.
Karen Koenig said the offer was made last year, and the couple countered by asking for $1.25 million. That figure was based on amounts she found, via county property records, that the city paid for smaller properties with no marshfront nearby, she said.
State law outlines steps for eminent domain and condemnation actions, including negotiations to reach a settlement. If a settlement is not reached, the purchaser may deposit a payment with the county clerk of court. Although the law allows property owners 30 days to accept or refuse the payment, the purchaser does not have to wait to move forward with condemnation.
Holloway filed notices of condemnation, payment, payment refusal and a request for a jury trial on July 28, according to county court records. The filings were necessary, he said, to meet construction deadlines.
The property owner retains the right to appeal through the courts, including having a jury trial, according to the law.
Holloway hopes a settlement can be reached.
"No one really at all wants to create a hardship for them or anyone else," he said.
Holloway said that under state law, the Koenigs can receive additional money to help with relocation. That includes moving and packing expenses, as well as differential payments. For example, if the nearest available property that is similar to the Koenigs' is more than the payment they received for their home, they could receive additional money to make up the difference, he said.
The Koenigs, however, aren't interested in staying in Beaufort any longer.
"We've been in business for 40 years now, serving the community with some sort of business or other and paying our taxes," she said. " ... We're not going to stay in Beaufort County. Why should we, when they take our property?"
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.