Eminent domain stalls Niles water project

NILES — Completion of a water loop project on Difford Drive has stalled because the city must proceed with eminent domain on two properties to get easements to install a water line.

City Council gave the green light to Law Director Terry Swauger to begin the eminent domain process to get easements from Maria Rosa, 1323 Difford Drive, and the Eastwood Arms Apartments.

Residents in several areas of the city had complained of discolored water caused by sediment in dead-end water lines. The city received a $280,000 grant for the loop projects, which keeps water in the lines circulating, and two such projects on Carnegie and Nebraska avenues have been completed. The Difford Drive loop project, which will connect dead-end lines on Difford Drive and Gypsy Lane so water can circulate, is on hold because two property owners have refused to grant easements to the loop.

The city in the coming week will serve Rosa and Eastwood Arms notice of its intent to proceed with taking property for the easement, Swauger said, and from there the property will be appraised. The appraisal will determine how much the city is required to pay the property owners for the easement, Swauger said, and if they agree to the payment amount, legal action isn’t necessary.

“All we’re asking for is an easement for a pipe that will be underground,” Swauger said.

Rosa, who was one of the first people to complain about discolored water, now refuses to grant an easement to correct the problem, Swauger said. Representatives from Eastwood Arms couldn’t be reached for comment. Rosa said she believes the only reason the city wants an easement on her property is to save money rather than routing the line through another area that would cost more.

Granting an easement could cause her to lose resale value on her home, Rosa said, and it also could interfere with future additions to her home.

“If they want to take me to court, they can take me to court,” Rosa said.

Kevin Robertson, who heads the city’s engineering department, said there aren’t other routes for the water line and the design and engineering of the project have never changed. A plastic water line six inches in diameter will be placed in the ground using directional drilling rather than trenching, Robertson said, and the pipe itself won’t actually be on Rosa’s property but only an easement for future access should repairs be necessary. The pipe itself would exist underground on the Eastwood Arms property, Robertson said.

“Difford is the farthest street to the west and Gypsy is the first street to the east that we can tie to,” Robertson said. “Being that they are both dead-end lines, we want to kill two birds with one stone and fix two potential problems.”

The city intends to move forward with the project to address the water discoloration in the neighborhood although it could now take longer to complete as the eminent domain process moves forward.

jwysochanski@tribtoday.com

Easements

Easements are being sought from two property owners:

• Maria Rosa, 1323 Difford Drive

• Eastwood Arms Apartments, 4 Arms Blvd.

SOURCE: City of Niles

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