11/17/2007

Dover council shoots down eminent domain resolution: Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover NH, 9/27/07

By Leslie Modica

A local man won a two-year battle Wednesday night to stop a resolution by the city [of Dover NH] seeking to acquire 12,000-square-feet of his Henry Law Avenue property through eminent domain.

After hearing public comment from seven people, including property owner Peter Rousseau, opposing the resolution, the City Council unanimously voted against its passage.

Henry Law Avenue residents and friends of Rousseau told the council it would be unfair to take his land, adding the construction would hurt the rural character of the area. The land equals about a third of an acre.

"I look around the room and I see at least six of you who don't own more property than your house sits on," Ward 4 City Council candidate Rick Hebbard said. "You don't know what it's like to have your property taken. You might as well come up to them with a club and say 'I'm taking your land'."

The city has been trying to buy the land from Rousseau for about two years in an effort to widen that area of Henry Law Avenue and add sidewalks. On Wednesday night, the city was offering him $6,000 for the land. In the past, they have offered $8,000 and $2,400, Rousseau said.

Until Wednesday night, Rousseau was unresponsive to the city, calling their attempts to buy the land an "insult."

"I've owned the land since I was 17," Rousseau said. "I need every inch of it and what you all are taking away from me feeds my cows for a week."

Before the vote, Rousseau also submitted a petition with 126 signatures to Deputy City Clerk Valerie French opposing the acquisition of the land. But after the meeting, Rousseau said he thinks the vote finally ended the two-year argument.

"I don't think (the issue will come up again)," Rousseau said. "I think it's a dead issue now."

The council held a site walk of the area before the meeting. Some councilors said they were prepared to vote in favor of the resolution until the public spoke, and nobody spoke in favor of the resolution.

"It was my intention tonight to support this," Ward 2 Councilor Doug DeDe said. "But tonight's hearing did not produce one person in favor of the project. So why go through the expense? I'm just as happy to leave it as is."

The Henry Law Avenue reconstruction project has been in the works for the past five years. In 2002, the city held a neighborhood meeting with residents, who said they wanted sidewalks, Mayor Scott Myers said. But residents who came to the meeting said no such meeting was ever held. The project has been stalled for the past five years due to unsuccessful negotiations, City Engineer Paul Vlasich said.

The council's decision prompted applause and cheering from Rousseau's crowd of supporters.


Foster's Daily Democrat, Dover NH: http://www.fosters.com