Law­suit filed over pro­posed trail

Groups con­test­ing city’s use of em­i­nent do­main

The Saratogian (Saratoga, NY) - - FRONT PAGE - By Joseph Phe­lan jphelan@digitalfirstmedia.com

Ball­ston Spa, John and Marie Pom­pay and the Saratoga Spring Wa­ter Com­pany have filed a law­suit over the City Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to use em­i­nent do­main to se­cure prop­erty for the pro­posed Geyser Road trail.

On Tues­day, a pe­ti­tion was filed in the Supreme Court, Ap­pel­late Di­vi­sion, in Al­bany chal­leng­ing the ac­tions of Mayor Joanne Yepsen and the City Coun­cil’s de­ci­sion to use em­i­nent do­main to seize prop­erty from the village, the com­pany and the Pom­pays for the pro­posed trail, a news re­lease said.

“The city of Saratoga Springs has pulled off a re­mark­able tri­fecta by alien­at­ing its mu­nic­i­pal neigh­bors, a won­der­ful se­nior cou­ple in the Pom­pays’ and

the most rec­og­nized busi­ness in Saratoga Springs,” Karl Sleight, the at­tor­ney rep­re­sent­ing the village, the Pom­pays and Saratoga Spring Wa­ter Com­pany, said in the re­lease. “It is a very sad day, when city of­fi­cials force our neigh­bors, se­niors, veter­ans, and busi­nesses to seek pro­tec­tion at the court­house from an ar­ro­gant use of em­i­nent do­main for a pro­ject that will en­dan­ger chil­dren.”

The mayor re­sponded to the law­suit Wednesday af­ter­noon.

“This pe­ti­tion is noth­ing more than an­other de­lay tac­tic. We’ve seen this kind of thing be­fore. It has been one year since we started talk­ing and ne­go­ti­at­ing in good faith with the three prop­erty own­ers, but de­spite our best ef­forts they con­tinue to op­pose the Geyser Road Trail,” Yepsen said. “The city looks for­ward to mak­ing this pro­ject a re­al­ity. It is more than a decade old and it is now ap­proved with more than $3 mil­lion dol­lars in se­cured state and fed­eral fund­ing. We hope to be­gin en­joy­ing the in­creased safety, health and eco­nomic ben­e­fits as soon as pos­si­ble. The city feels con­fi­dent in both the en­vi­ron­men­tal re­view and the le­gal process we’ve im­ple­mented and we see no de­fects in them.”

The trail will cost $3.3 mil­lion, and it’s fully funded by state and fed­eral grants. The trail will be a multi-use path that be­gins at the city line with the town of Mil­ton, con­tin­u­ing along the north side of Geyser Road to the in­ter­sec­tion at Route 50.

In July, after the city ac­cepted an en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact state­ment on the trail pro­ject, Saratoga Ea­gle and Slack Chem­i­cal pro­vided a pos­si­ble al­ter­na­tive route, ask­ing the city to de­lay vot­ing on us­ing em­i­nent do­main to fin­ish the pro­ject. Saratoga Ea­gle pre­sented an in­de­pen­dent re­port that said the al­ter­na­tive route would be safer for peo­ple who would use the trail.

In Septem­ber, Mayor Joanne Yepsen, how­ever, said the al­ter­na­tive route would add more than a mile to the route, in­crease the cost of the pro­ject and would af­fect more prop­erty own­ers. The mayor did say the city con­sid­ers the al­ter­na­tive op­tion as a “pos­si­ble, fu­ture sup­ple­ment to the Geyser Road trail.”

Last month, the city coun­cil unan­i­mously voted to use em­i­nent do­main on three prop­er­ties in or­der to build the Geyser Road trail.

Later in Septem­ber, after the city’s de­ci­sion to use em­i­nent do­main, the Ball­ston Spa Board of Trus­tees voted across party lines to hire the law firm of Har­ris Beach, PLLC and to com­mence the lit­i­ga­tion. Har­ris Beach also rep­re­sents the Pom­pays and the Saratoga Spring Wa­ter Com­pany.

There’s a five-foot shoul­der on the north side of Geyser Road now but the pro­posal would es­sen­tially turn it into an eight-foot wide, paved as­phalt trail. Some fenc­ing and re­tain­ing walls would be needed through­out the trail.

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