Rockland airport neighbor says easement offers from county too low

Posted June 11, 2013, at 6:37 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — The owner of one of three properties that Knox County is considering using eminent domain to gain an easement to cut trees next to the airport, said that the offer is much too low.

Kenneth Williams of South Thomaston also disputed claims that the county has been negotiating with him. He said it has made two offers which both are far too little.

“You’re asking for an easement forever. I’ve lived here for 37 years and put everything into my home, and they’re telling me it (the easement) is worth only $8,000,” Williams said.

The Buttermilk Lane resident said he has spoken to his neighbors and found that they all will be receiving more than he has been offered. Williams’ property is the closest to the Knox County Regional Airport.

The county has reached agreement with 12 property owners. Three have not accepted the proposals.

Williams appeared Tuesday afternoon before the Knox County Commissioners. The commissioners voted 3-0 to proceed with a public hearing July 25 at which time they will visit the three properties, hear arguments from all parties and then vote on whether to impose easements by eminent domain and how much to pay owners.

The property owners can appeal to state Superior Court.

Airport Manager Jeff Northgraves said if the county pays more than what the Federal Aviation Administration considers is fair market value, Knox County will be responsible for all of the additional costs. He pointed out after the meeting that Williams’ property is one of the smaller lots for which an easement is being sought at less than 2 acres.

The county has sought reimbursement from the FAA for $365,000 for the first 12 easements, but that figure also includes the costs of lawyers, appraisers, engineers and consultants who are working on the project which aims to remove trees that are too close to the flight paths for the airport.

Northgraves said he is prohibited from releasing how much each landowner has been offered until the easements are finalized, but he said it would be wildly inaccurate to extrapolate that the 12 property owners received $365,000.

Northgraves also said that Williams needs to provide evidence to support the amount of money he is seeking. Williams did not specify how much he thought he should receive.

There have been no crashes at the airport due to obstructions in flight paths, Northgraves said. The crash in November which claimed the lives of three people resulted from a pickup truck and airplane striking each other during takeoff.

The airport manager said the other property owners have hired attorneys. The other property owners are David and Carol Pollard, and Jason and Michelle Benner.

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