Seizure of land leaves Londonderry residents fuming: (Manchester NH) Union Leader, 10/20/05

By Margaret Menge

At least two property owners in north Londonderry have been notified in recent months that the state has taken their land by eminent domain for the airport access road project.

Jim and Lorayne Pincence, who own 112 acres on Hall Road, said they came home one day three weeks ago to find a notice thrown up on their porch saying that all but 3 of their 112 acres were being taken for wetlands mitigation.

Al Baldasaro, a retired Marine Corps sergeant who lives at 41 Hall Road, was served notice in June.

He said he answered the door to see a Rockingham County sheriff's deputy on his doorstep holding a letter from the state Board of Tax and Land Appeals saying that almost 5 of his 6 acres had been taken.

The Pincences and the Baldasaros are among 70 property owners in north Londonderry from whom the state has been attempting to acquire land so that they can put construction of the access road out to bid.

Bob Barry, who's managing the mitigation for the Department of Transportation, said that the federal environmental impact statement for the new road required it.

Negotiations have been under way for more than year, with the state making offers of varying amounts for properties surrounding Little Cohas Marsh that add up to about 750 acres.

An impartial appraiser was hired by the state to determine the value of all parcels of land, as the law requires. The property owners must, by law, be given "just compensation." But the property owners interviewed for this article all said that the amount they were offered by the state was much less than market value.

Baldasaro said the state offered him $10,000 for 4.9 acres. He said he bought the property in 2002 for $287,000.

"My land's not for sale," he said. "But if you're gonna take it, you gotta pay fair market value."

Jim Pincence wouldn't say what the state had offered him but said, "It was a lot lower than anyone else has been offered in the area."

The state made John Goulet, of 18 Hall Road, an offer of $7,800 for 3 of his 5 acres.

"That's peanuts," said his son Mark, "For $7,800, I'd rather just keep it."

Mark said his dad hired a lawyer in the last two weeks and is looking at taking legal action.

Pincence, owner of Pincence Land Clearing, said that once they found out that the state wanted their land a couple of years ago, it put them in a tough place.

"It put a collar on us," he said. "Who would buy land they know they were gonna lose eventually?"

He said his wife, Lorayne, who holds the title on the land, just hired an attorney to look at taking legal action against the state.

Kathleen Kilroy, who lives down the road from Baldasaro and Pincence, grew up in the house where she now lives with her husband and 2-year-old son.

They have two horses in back that they ride on their 59 acres behind the house. The state wants all but 1.29 acres, which is short of the 2-acre minimum that Londonderry requires for horse owners. The state offered just $1,000 an acre.

"Now what are we supposed to do?" she said, "Get rid of the horses — something I've been doing since I was 7 years old?"

She and her husband David have retained the services of a lawyer ever since the state first mentioned that their land could be taken by eminent domain two years ago. But she's not hopeful.

"There's no way you're gonna win this because there's millions of dollars behind this."

She said you can't even bring up the subject with her father, from whom she bought the house. He's beside himself. She said she and her husband have been sick over it — nauseous, unable to sleep and losing hair. They're in the process of hiring their own appraiser to come out and determine the value of their land. They plan to counter the state's offer.

Much of the land that the state is taking for mitigation is wetlands. But Baldasaro and Pincence have been fighting the state on that account since last year.

They say that the land is being flooded by a dam the state was supposed to take down in April of 2004. Baldasaro said he thinks the state is doing this on purpose to devalue his property.

"New Hampshire is quietly taking people's land," he said, "They're taking 700 acres of land from people who can't afford to fight."

His attorney filed an objection at the end of August, saying that since his property is five miles from where the access road will be built, the state hasn't demonstrated why they need it for some public benefit — the standard that has to be met to allow taking by eminent domain.

Baldasaro's case has been referred to Rockingham County Superior Court.

He and his attorney are waiting for a court date.

The Union Leader: www.unionleader.com

Letter to local officials
by Al Baldasaro

Please Protect land owners' rights

Eminent domain has gone wild here in New Hampshire. The Department of Transportation (DOT)had a mitigation project going on in Londonderry and surrounding communities since 1997. A lot of people knew nothing about it, or don't want to know about it.

Recently, they have been quietly stealing over 700 acres for an access road to the Manchester Airport. The sad thing is that our land has nothing to do with the access road. They also claim our land is "wet" but this is because the NH Fish and Game Commission refused to take their dam out after their lease expired in April 2004.

Whether the land is wet or dry, we own it. So the DOT offers us a appraisal on manmade wetland, which they say has no value. It is the state's dam that is keeping it wet! They are not building anything on our land and the airport access road is 5 miles away. This has no financial gain to the state. As a matter of fact, the state does not pay taxes to the towns, and all the towns involved will lose property tax dollars if this goes through.

What is wrong with our State? I served 22 years Honorably in the US Marines (Desert Storm Vet/Disabled Vet), protecting our country, to come home to a Government that can take my property or that of any other NH resident, because the DOT says it's the right thing to do. Hello! Are the tax payers of NH that stupid? This is a sad day in our state, if our elected officials do nothing about this legal thievery.

Sadam did this in Kuwait and you see what we did. I was there and I have the memories of the Kuwaiti people, their happy faces, in my brain after we gave them their land back and their freedom. Something is wrong here in our "Live Free or Die" State! We are suppose to be leading the nation in setting the example on Living Free.

They know that we little people do not have the funds to fight them. I have no choice but to try to take this to court, since everyone else has turned their back on us. Especially the Executive Council and the Chairman of the Special Committee appointed by the Governor. The Chairman — Councilor Wieczorek, along with Councilors Wheeler and Spaulding, did not attend the Bedford-Manchester-Londonderry-Merrimack mitigation hearing but voted in favor of taking our property. They did not not care about the land owners' complaints.

The DOT has forced me to engage a law firm to fight this. Spending money this way takes food of my and many other residents' tables. We want to believe in the American Dream. Something needs to be done to protect all residents of NH.

Al Baldasaro: baldasaro@adelphia.net