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Caroga officials moving forward with eminent domain

CAROGA — The town board is moving forward with the eminent domain procedure for the Morey Road extension trail project and is holding a special meeting Saturday at Town Hall at 11 a.m. to discuss its plans.

The town’s attorney, Greg Dunn, received the new and updated appraisals for the Morey Road Extension properties and now has all the necessary paperwork to file with the court, according to an email Dunn sent to the councilmen. In the email he said he plans on filing the lawsuit today.

“We’re moving the process forward,” said Supervisor James Selmser. “We’re at the process to file everything with the court.”

The town board is holding the special meeting on Saturday to pass a resolution to authorize town Clerk Linda Gilbert to mail out a check to each property owner for the appraised value of the property involved.

“Once I file the lawsuit, I will ask the court for a hearing date [as soon as possible] to get the matter before the judge. I am hopeful that if I show him proof of service of the lawsuit, letter and check for just compensation to each defendant, he will grant the taking without much delay,” Dunn states in the email. “This, of course, presumes that the defendants don’t dispute the appraised values or come up with some other argument to postpone the taking.”

For several years the town has been attempting to gain access to land through an eminent domain procedure law. The land the town is looking to gain access to is approximately 15 feet wide and 1,075 feet long and is privately owned by six separate residents. The town would like to regain access to land, which in the past has been used as a recreational trail and a popular destination for snowmobile riders. The trail gives riders access to other towns and benefits tourism.

However, the town has been in dispute with one of the owners, Charles and Helen Johnson, who have put up “no trespassing” signs preventing anyone from accessing the trail.

This is the second eminent domain procedure the town has attempted for the land. The town withdrew the first eminent domain filing when faced with challenges, including an appeal made by landowners challenging the attempted seizure of land on several procedural grounds, including that the town didn’t publicize the eminent domain seizure for the required five days.

The proceeding was brought before the Supreme Court, and in June 2018, the judge dismissed the petition since the town withdrew the eminent domain filing.

At the town’s meeting in September, the town passed a resolution to move forward with a second eminent domain law proceeding for the Morey Road Extension trail project. Since then, the town has completed the necessary steps in order to now file the eminent domain with the court.

The meeting Saturday is a public meeting, and anyone from the public is invited to attend the meeting.

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