Highland Supervisors Consider Using Eminent Domain To Condemn McDowell Property
Monterey, VA – Few matters attract the attention of rural land owners more than the issue of eminent domain and a local government’s right to condemn private property for public use. This was the case on Tuesday evening when several county residents spoke out at the public hearing held by the Highland County Board of Supervisors. The issue at hand is the county’s trash compactor located just east of McDowell on Route 250.
In 1997 the owners of the property, Mr. and Mrs. Curtis Wood, entered into a five year lease with Highland County for location of a trash compactor on the site that included 0.079 acre of their property and additional property owned by the Virginia Department of Transportation. Since 1997 that 5 year lease has been renewed twice. A few years ago Mr. Eggleston bought the property from Mr. and Mrs. Wood.
Now the lease is up for renewal in October, 2011 and Mr. Eggleston has informed the county that he intends to not renew the lease. The reason given for this decision is that Mr. Eggleston now wants to sell the property adjacent to the trash compactor and has found that the presence of the compactor is a deterrent to potential buyers. County Administrator Roberta Lambert gives the findings by the county.
“The Board of Supervisors has researched alternative locations for the solid waste site in the McDowell area without success” reads Lambert. “The Board finds that moving the solid waste collection site from the Eggleston property is cost prohibitive to the county. The Board believes that the Eggleston parcel should be used for the public purpose of continuing to provide a solid waste collection site in the McDowell area of the county. The Board believes it is in the public interest to look at acquiring the property by condemnation or other means.”
Supervisor Jerry Rexrode summarizes some of the efforts made by the county to find other sites.
“When we first searched for sites in McDowell, if it hadn’t been for Mr. Wood, there wouldn’t be a site in McDowell” says Rexrode. “He was the only place and the only gentleman who was kind enough to let us have a site. It’s probably the best location for the McDowell area, it’s convenient to McDowell, Doe Hill, Williamsville; a lot of people that leaves here and goes to Staunton, they drop trash off there from Monterey.”
Supervisor Rexrode emphasized that it would now cost the county over $40,000 to develop a new site for the compactor. When the hearing began, Realtor Charlotte Stephenson was first to speak. She is representing Mr. Eggleston in efforts to sell the property and offered to help the county find an alternate site for the trash compactor. Highland County resident Trey Williams spoke against the county using eminent domain to take land.
“My grandfather owns a little sliver of land and the compactors also on it” says Williams. “If he does not or my mother or uncle does not decide to renew their contract, are you going to take their land?”
“I think you have to go on a case by case basis” says Supervisor Rexrode. “Well what I’m saying Trey, I can’t make that decision until that time comes.”
“Well you need to think about that before you take somebody’s land” says Williams.
Mustoe resident Lee Taplinger offered the county suggestions for improving the appearance of the current compactor site. Dave Smith, who lives south of McDowell, suggested that if no other suitable site can be found, or if moving the compactor will cost the county too much, then the property should be condemned and the compactor can stay where it is currently located.
The Supervisors approved a motion to table the matter of condemnation of the property at the current trash compactor site until later this year. In the meantime, efforts will continue to find an alternative site.