The Avenue of the Pines recreation trail. Photo by Larry Goodwin.
BALLSTON SPA - The City of Saratoga Springs was dealt a setback this week in its attempts to seize properties through eminent domain proceedings, as a means to start construction of the Geyser Road recreational trail.
On Monday, according to a statement provided by attorney Karl Sleight of the law firm Harris Beach, state Supreme Court Judge Robert J. Chauvin issued a 60-day stay that "prevents the city from taking title" to properties on Geyser Road owned by the Saratoga Spring Water Company, the Pompay family and the Village of Ballston Spa.
Those three "petitioners" are represented by Sleight in a lawsuit filed this October in the state Appellate Division in Albany. The petitioners are "seeking a review of the City's compliance with environmental and eminent domain procedures," Sleight said.
For nearly 10 years, outgoing Saratoga Springs Mayor Joanne Yepsen and many residents have strongly supported construction of the recreation trail (among them dozens of homeowners in Geyser Crest, in the city's outer district). Plans call for it to be built on the north side of Geyser Road in a manner similar to the popular Avenue of the Pines trail east of Route 50. Proponents say it will provide runners and bikers with a vital link between the city's other trails and the Town of Milton.
Yet Sleight said city officials "plowed forward" with eminent domain proceedings against his clients, calling Monday's ruling by Chauvin "a very big win" that would allow the Appellate Divsion case to proceed without complication. Chauvin's 60-day stay expires on Jan. 19, 2018.
Earlier this year, Ballston Spa Mayor John Romano voiced concerns about the increased risk of public access to the village's property and water infrastructure. Some of those pipes, he said, are located underground where the Geyser Road trail would be built.
Other local residents have criticized the plan because of the dangers posed to trail users by heavy tractor trailer traffic connected to the W.J. Grande Industrial Park.
Sleight said he strongly recommends that the city reconsider a proposal made this summer by the Saratoga Eagle and Slack Chemical companies to access 54 acres of land they own to build the trail, rather than proceed with the Geyser Road plan. He called it "the Duplainville Woods alternative."
"Spending taxpayer dollars on constructing the safer, Duplainville Woods alternative would seem wiser than litigating this and possibly ending up with no trail at all," Sleight said.
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