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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

County Commission Votes to Use “Eminent Domain” to Accomplish Road Widening

By Sid Riley

Some involved property owners agree to easement needs, while others refuse to agree.

Commissioner Kenneth Stephens has been attempting to work out road widening problems with property owners along a portion of Old Spanish Trail where the existing right of way is narrower than the 80 feet needed to properly engineer the road for drainage and perhaps eventual paving. There are six property owners involved in this narrow stretch of the road. Four have resisted attempts made by the county to negotiate terms for obtaining the needed easements for proceeding with the work.

The problem dates back to the origin of the road in the early days of settlement of the county, in the early 1800’s. The road was created with no clear definition of right of way, easements, or property lines. As property lines were eventually defined, they were surveyed and made with little or no consideration of roadway requirements. Then, as the county began to assume responsibility for maintenance and thus required right-of-way definitions, these conflicts were created. For newer roadways, these definitions were present from the start, so no problems exist. However for roads in the county which existed before modern roadway construction procedures became commonplace….definition of property rights and problems with creating needed right-of-way clearances do exist.

“I find it very distasteful to ever use eminent domain against a property owner” stated Commissioner Chuck Lockey, “but in some instances property owners just will not leave any other option.” The Commissioners voted unanimously to proceed with the necessary action.

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