July 21, 2008

Judge OKs Taking Property for Saratoga Water Project

By Leigh Hornbeck, Albany Times Union, N.Y.

Jul. 21--BALLSTON SPA -- A judge this morning took land away from property owners who had been fighting the county water line and gave it to the Saratoga County Water Authority.

State Supreme Court Judge Thomas Nolan's decision ends the acquisition phase of the eminent domain proceeding but did not settle the question of how much each owner will be paid. According to the law, the owners must be paid a fair price for their land, but the process could take years.

The owners of roughly 20 parcels held out against the water authority as it moved to buy the land it needs to install a 26-mile water line from Moreau to Malta. Since the legal process to take the land began in April, a few of the hold-outs have settled but approximately 13 are still fighting for a higher price or better conditions in the easement contract. A preliminary ruling Nolan gave in the spring allowed the water authority to begin work on the contested property.

Mary Zetterstrom, 83, is one of the owners who has objected to the water line. In the 1970s the county built a sewer line across her land along Northline Road in Ballston Spa and 11 acres were destroyed as a result of flooding. Now, she wants a guarantee the same thing will not happen again. Zetterstrom's daughter, Debbie Zetterstrom, who has acted on her mother's behalf, said the water authority has been uncooperative.

Zetterstrom said she's been on the property everyday she was aware workers would be moving equipment onto the land. The workers have been nice, she said, but miscommunication has happened anyway. One of the trees they agreed to leave standing has been cut down, Zetterstrom said.

The water authority hired a company to appraise the property this spring and then offered Mary Zetterstrom about $9,000. In light of property values around Saratoga County, Debbie Zetterstrom said the offer is too low.


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