Costly Legal Battle over Sewer Easements Weighed by Village
The Board of Trustees of the Village of Saranac Lake is meeting Monday night to discuss whether it should continue fighting a 6-year legal battle which already cost village taxpayers at least $250,000 million.
The village board is scheduled to vote on a resolution that would permit law firm Harris Beach to appeal the decision made by state Supreme Court Judge David Demarest.
The Supreme Court judge ruled that the village did not adhere to the requirements of state Eminent Domain Procedure Law when it tried to take sewer line easements from property owners at Riverside Drive and Kiwassa Road.
The judge also found out that the village “made serious misrepresentations to the court” so in can gain emergency access to the properties to install the new sewer line.
According to Demarest, the appraisal process must take place and there must be a determination on the value of the easements. He also directed the village to cover the costs incurred by the owners of the property and their legal fees as well.
John Sweeney, the Village Manager, said he and Doug Foss, the lawyer handling the case, believe that the decision of Demarest is flawed and an appeal should be made.
Sweeney said, “My opinion is that he’s changing the law, the eminent domain process, in reference to how it works.” He also added, “He’s making decisions based on prior cases that apparently don’t seem to agree.”
Foss said that the village had to move fast to replace the sewer line due to high coliform bacteria counts that were already threatening waterways and tourism in the village. “I think there’s clear case law and this decision is outside it,” Foss said.