11/26/2007

Eminent domain delayed: Carlisle PA Sentinel, 10/12/07

By Dale Heberlig

The owner of land on a ridge overlooking Shippensburg made a new pitch to Shippensburg Borough Authority members Tuesday, convincing the board to delay eminent domain proceedings for at least a month.

Lane Thrush — a real estate agent who owns an 80-acre tract on Timber Hill along Possum Hollow Road in Southampton Township, Franklin County — agreed to deed 2.25 acres and a half-mile right-of-way to accommodate a water line in exchange for $60,000 and assurances that the water system operators would not condemn a separate 5-acre tract and acquire the land by eminent domain.

The authority wants land as a site for a much-needed water storage tank to enhance water service in several areas — including Forest Ridge and the area east of Shippensburg along Routes 11 and 174. Thrush’s property was identified as an ideal site because of its location and elevation.

Last month, authority directors authorized condemnation proceedings on a 5-acre tract, saying negotiations to buy the 2.25 acres had failed.

Thrush attended Tuesday’s meeting to ask questions and “put this thing to rest, whatever it takes.”

Would prefer more acreage
Authority solicitor Forest Myers told Thrush that the authority’s first choice of land was a 5-acre parcel atop Timber Hill that would provide space for a potential second storage tower and where the tall tanks could be easily concealed in the trees.

“You were adamantly opposed to us having the 5 acres from the very beginning,” Myers told Thrush, “so we negotiated on the alternative 2.25-acre site that you suggested.”

However, when negotiations stalled, Myers said, the authority opted to use eminent domain to pursue what it originally wanted.

Thrush said he wants to retain possession of the 5-acre hilltop, because it provides the choicest potential building lots.

According to Tuesday’s discussion, an appraisal acquired by the authority established the value of the unimproved 2.5 acres to be $11,800 per acre, or $26,550.

Thrush offered the land for a $50,000 price tag, with additional charges of $10,000 for the water line right-of-way, $7,500 for engineering fees and 5 free taps thrown in for future use in developing homes near the location, bringing the total price to $73,565.

“That was not acceptable to the authority,” Myers said.

Myers argued that the construction of a water tower and a road to access the site improves the value of Thrush’s total acreage and “that should be worth considerable consideration.”

Space for second tank
Thrush objected to the authority’s decision to condemn a different tract than the one the two sides dickered over for months, but Myers said the 5 acres targeted for condemnation gives the authority far more flexibility.

“There is room for a second tank and there is more room to provide screening for the tanks,” Myers says.

Myers said if Thrush provides his offer in writing, the authority board will consider the proposal at its November meeting.

Authority members Christopher Woltemade and Tom Feeney were absent from Tuesday’s session, prompting members W. Edward Goodhart and Keith Swartz and Chairman Ken Morgan to forestall a decision.

Goodhart said, “There’s no way I’ll vote to buy 2.25 acres when 5 acres is a much better choice.”


Carlisle PA Sentinel: http://www.cumberlink.com