Lawsuit filed over proposed trail
Groups contesting city’s use of eminent domain
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.