GRAY — The Town Council voted unanimously Tuesday to take a private section of Gore Road by eminent domain to address local concerns about maintenance.
The unanimous 5-0 vote, which was met with some applause from the audience, is a significant step in a road dispute that has been years in the making.
Doug Wilson, a Gore Road resident who does not live in the section being taken by eminent domain, but passes through it on a daily basis, made his support for the move known before the vote.
” I just want to touch on three numbers: 30, 18 and five. Thirty years this has been a problem. Eighteen months I’ve been working with a lot of people to try and get this resolved. In the next five minutes, you guys are going to solve the problem,” Wilson said.
The problem, according to Wilson and other locals who use the section of the Gore Road in question, has been a poorly maintained private roadway. By taking that stretch of road from the six abutting property owners, the town aims to make some improvements – including culverts and ditches – in order to bolster road conditions and safety. Each abutting property owner will receive $1 in exchange, though the town attorney said that figure could increase depending what work needs to be done and how it affects the surrounding properties.
Most of those six property owners are on board with the eminent domain move, which takes a portion of roadway that is about 660 feet long and 60 feet wide. The property owners had an opportunity to discuss the issue with town officials at a workshop Jan. 11, and four of the six abutters agreed the eminent domain approach was preferable to the town taking the roadway by easement deeds.
Town Councilor Lynn Gallagher explained before the vote how that workshop helped convince her to support eminent domain in this specific case, despite having gone on record against it in the past.
“Prior to this, I asked that we have a sit-down meeting with all of the parties involved. Our town engineer was there, our town attorney was there, and four of the six property owners showed up,” Gallagher said. “So while I’ve gone on record saying I’m not in favor of eminent domain, the parties involved have indicated that they would like it taken by eminent domain, so I will be voting in favor of that.”
The vote came towards the end of Tuesday’s Town Council meeting, which also included a public hearing on the eminent domain proposal.
The public hearing that proceeded the vote was not without opposition to the eminent domain proposal. Mary Devine, lawyer for David and Cheryl MacKinnon, spoke for several minutes about her clients’ concerns. As one of the six abutters, the MacKinnons are worried about the town’s plan affecting their property, Devine said in her remarks before the council. Neither the MacKinnons nor Devine attended the Jan.11 workshop.
“(The MacKinnons) have spent an incredible amount of time doing work on their property – gardens, trees, lampposts, mailboxes – that they feel at risk that it’s all going to get wiped away. And no one has really answered those questions yet,” said Devine in her remarks. “They’re not saying don’t do this, but they’re saying, treat us as individuals when you analyze this.”
Devine also mentioned in her remarks that the MacKinnons didn’t attend the meeting because “they feel that they have been badly handled by some people in the Sebago Lodges group, by the town, by other people.”
Bill Dale, the town attorney, told Devine, “We’re very sensitive to the MacKinnons’ concerns, and they will be heard.” He also went on to say that once the snow melts this spring, any potential road work will be staked out first so residents can see what is planned. By doing so, the town hopes to minimize any property impacts.
“Largely speaking, after this is done, the road is not going to change much,” Dale said. “We’re going to put in some ditches and culverts, but anybody who thinks this is going to be four lanes paved, striped, and landing airplanes, it’s just not going to be.”
Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 123, or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker
The street sign where Gore Road meets Route 85 in Raymond. The Gray Town Council voted Tueday to take a private portion of the Gore Road closer to Little Sebago Lake by eminent domain.