The Homer Village Board and a property owner hope to find another solution for acquiring a property along Route 11 for a project, but the village will continue with the process of taking the property under eminent domain.
“Eminent domain was really the last thing that we wanted to do,” said Deputy Mayor Patrick Clune Friday. “We’re moving forward with it, but if we can find another way around, that’s the preferred method.”
The village board has been working to acquire three properties along Route 11 — the former Budget Inn Motel property, a defunct auto repair shop at 215 S. Main St. owned by James Harder and an empty building to create a linear park along the Tioughnioga River.
Clune said the next few days will decide what the village does, as it waits for information regarding the project. However, Clune said he could not give details on what that information is because “it relates to the negotiation process.”
“From my client’s perspective the door is always open for negotiation but we haven’t received any contact from the village on that that I know of,” said Natalie Miner, Harder’s attorney.
Village Treasurer Tanya Digennaro said Harder has not filed suit over the eminent domain process either.
Mayor Darren “Hal” McCabe had previously said the village would back off from doing the project after Harder refused to sell the property at the price the village offered.
“We got strong feedback from the residents saying we need to do this project and that’s why we went back to it,” Clune said.
During a Dec. 11 public hearing on taking the property under eminent domain, Miner told the board the village had previously signed a contract with Harder that should be honored.
The village board, led by then-Mayor Genevieve Suits, offered in 2015 to buy the property for $118,000, Miner said.
The price was established by a market evaluation that Jamie Yaman, principal broker for Yaman Real Estate, did at the request of the board.
Miner said the current board in both 2018 and 2019 continued to put forth that price. However, Miner said in July 2019 the village asserted the appraised value was $89,500 — $28,500 less than the original appraisal.
Clune said at the meeting that the original appraisal was not done by a commercial professional appraiser, as grant regulations require.
To continue with the eminent domain process, the village must have a condemnation hearing by early March in which it lays out the reasons the village wants to take the property.
Digennaro said the board is working on the paperwork needed to schedule the hearing, which includes describing the public use of the property, the location and reason it was chosen, the general effect on the location and residents and any other area or topics that should be noted.
The project, which would open up the river to residents, would be covered by a $380,000 state grant, which McCabe said the village will lose if it cannot progress with the project.