October 21, 2021

Dryden residents oppose eminent domain for trail

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DRYDEN — Dryden residents told town officials they don’t want land to be acquired by eminent domain for the Dryden Rail Trail, but the supervisor said there’s a sticking point on building a pedestrian bridge over Route 13.

“I endorse the rail trail, I believe in it,” Shirley Lyon of Dryden said at a town board meeting Thursday. “I’ve used it, I’ve enjoyed it. I don’t like being painted with a broad brush that said I’m anti-trail. It has been suggested by people that we are against the trail, but we are not — we are against the bridge, some of us against eminent domain.”

Supervisor Jason Leifer said he knows nobody wants to use eminent domain, but there are occasionally situations where a project is clearly a public good, but there’s a delay with acquiring the necessary land.

“The thing is, no matter what happens — whether or not we buy it outright, without the state using eminent domain — you’re going to get paid what it’s worth,” he said. “There’s nothing being stolen from anybody.”

The 3.3-mile Dryden Rail Trail follows a former railroad bed south from the village of Freeville to the village of Dryden, connecting with the 4.2mile Jim Schug Trail continuing south to Dryden Lake and beyond to Purvis Road. The proposed trail will add another three miles to the path, passing through Varna toward the eastern side of Ithaca, traveling through wetlands that are part of the Cornell Botanic Gardens.

Many of the properties being considered for eminent domain near the bridge site over Route 13 near Route 366 already have easements for water and sewer lines, preventing property owners from doing anything with the land, Leifer said.

“I’m against eminent domain and this bridge for many technical reasons,” Lyons said, including the cost of the bridge — $2 million from state and federal grants — with no evidence that residents would use the path. “Where is there a study showing how many people are actually going to use this as a commuter path? It’s our money, it’s people’s homes, our neighbors.”

“I will say that the grants are transferred from the Department of Transportation, so their intent is to create an alternative route for these people — that’s why these things are from that department,” Leifer said. “Discussions were started over two years ago, and that’s why the grant applications were made by DOT, for commuter purposes.”

“I don’t understand how it can be called the commuter corridor — it’s gotta be seasonal,” said Shirley Price, who lives on George Road near the trail. “Nobody’s gonna ride a bicycle down that trail in the middle of winter. It’s just not going to happen.”

“As far as eminent domain, you guys don’t have an easement on my property yet, and I’ve been thinking strongly of doing that,” she added. “I said, you could have my easement when you got that road down to 45 mph. People fly down that road and nothing has been done.”

However, the town does not set speed limits. Leifer told Price the town would contact the state Department of Transportation.

“We’re going to try to get the speed limit reduced, but before that, we should have an actual crosswalk there with flashing lights that people can press to alert cars that they’re there,” Leifer said.

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