Property owners seek more money for airport tree cutting

These trees are among those that Knox County plans to cut as part of an airport safety project.
Stephen Betts
These trees are among those that Knox County plans to cut as part of an airport safety project. Buy Photo
Posted July 25, 2013, at 5:35 p.m.
County officials and representatives look at a map concerning where the county will be cutting trees as part of an airport safety project. The county needs to obtain easements on 15 properties in South Thomaston to move ahead with the cutting.
Stephen Betts
County officials and representatives look at a map concerning where the county will be cutting trees as part of an airport safety project. The county needs to obtain easements on 15 properties in South Thomaston to move ahead with the cutting. Buy Photo

ROCKLAND, Maine — Three couples who live near the Knox County Regional Airport say they want to be paid a fair amount to allow the county to cut trees on their properties.

Knox County Commissioners decided Thursday to delay action until their Aug. 13 meeting on whether to take easements by eminent domain over the three properties on Buttermilk Lane.

“This is critical to the safety of the airport,” Airport Manager Jeffrey Northgraves said.

Northgraves said that the Federal Aviation Administration has determined that there are trees which are extending into the recommended approach path for aircraft using the main runway, he said. The easements will allow the county to trim or remove trees as needed.

At the meeting, two property owners and an attorney representing the third couple appeared before commissioners to challenge the amount of money offered thus far by Knox County for the easements.

“You work your whole life for your home. I just want to be treated fairly,” Ken Williams said.

The county has offered Williams and his wife Glennice $8,000 for the easement on their property. Williams, however, provided the commissioners with an appraisal that sets the value of the easement at $23,700.

Jason Benner said his concern was similar to Williams but also questioned when residents would get paid if they agreed to the easements.

The county has offered Jason and Michelle Benner $10,000 for an easement on their land. Jason Benner gave the board an appraisal, pegging the worth of the easement at $21,700.

Attorney Wayne Crandall was in attendance to represent David and Karen Pollard. The county has offered the Pollards $15,000 for an easement on their land, but Crandall presented an appraisal saying the easement was worth $31,500.

The county has sought easements on 15 properties. Purchase and sales agreements have been reached with all but four of the owners. The county is still negotiating with one but turned to the eminent domain process when an agreement could not be reached with the three who were the subject of the eminent domain proceedings on Thursday at the Knox County courthouse.

The process of getting the easements began four years ago, he said. The county has had two appraisals done on each of the 15 properties.

Williams noted that each of the three times an appraisal was done on his property, the value increased by a significant amount.

The amount of money being paid to the landowners who have agreed to the easements are confidential until the deals are finalized and filed in the registry of deeds, Northgraves said.

Northgraves said he does not expect any tree cutting until next year.

The Federal Aviation Administration will reimburse Knox County for the costs of the easements but only up to an amount that the federal agency considers to be fair market value, Northgraves said. If the county pays more than that amount, Knox County would be responsible for the additional expenses. The county has applied to the FAA for the reimbursement for the 11 easements already agreed upon.

Commissioners will take a vote on Aug. 13 on whether to take the easements by eminent domain and determine a price to be paid. If eminent domain is used, the landowners will then have 30 days to appeal the amount of damages to Knox County Superior Court, according to the county’s attorney, James Katsiaficas.

The commissioners toured the three properties Thursday morning and then went back to the courthouse for the hearing.

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