Huntersville limits greenway power: Charlotte NC Observer, 10/2/07

By Erica Beshears

The Huntersville [NC] Board of Commissioners voted Monday to restrict its own power of eminent domain so that the town cannot condemn land for a greenway, bikeway or pathway.

The compromise decision came after a heated election-season public hearing, in which residents accused the town board of breaking their trust over the greenway master plan adopted in August.

Town board members have consistently said they do not support condemning land for a greenway. However, in the spring, they told neighbors in the Hamptons that they would not take up the greenway master plan until September. Instead, they adopted the plan in August after taking out the most controversial greenway route and adding language that the town did not intend to use condemnation.

The decision to vote on the master plan in August angered some residents.

Commissioner Brian Sisson proposed an ordinance that would have limited the town's power of eminent domain to only road projects. He told his fellow board members that they could not claim to support private property rights if they did not support restricting eminent domain. "The town board broke its trust with the residents," he said.

During Monday's discussion, other commissioners suggested other versions. Commissioner Charles Jeter wanted to specify that the road projects had to be thoroughfares but allow eminent domain for public utilities and public safety. "I think that's where you draw the line," he said.

Commissioner Teri Leonhardt, who's not running for re-election, proposed the compromise that ultimately passed unanimously: no eminent domain for greenways, pathways and bikeways. She said the compromise had been suggested to her by Bruce Andersen, the planning board chairman and a candidate for town board.

The ordinance passed restricts the town's powers but would not keep the county or state from condemning land in Huntersville.

Charlotte NC Observer: http://www.charlotte.com