Following two public records requests to the town of Gibsonville, The Alamance News has found that the town started to move toward condemnation litigation with a property owner in its pursuit of extending water and sewer lines to its southernmost reaches.
The newspaper learned of the potential for litigation, which could’ve resulted in condemnation on a resident’s property to gain an easement for the utility lines, after submitting a public records request for information about current town attorney Robert Giles’ interviewing and hiring process last month.
Among emails between town manager Ben Baxley and the board of aldermen was a question to the manager and board from alderman Yvonne Maizland, who said that she had been asked by residents why Giles’ interview would be held in closed session.
“Wouldn’t it be more appropriate to resolve a dispute in favor of the public and transparency? What do we have to hide from the community?” she asked Baxley and the board. The set of emails sent to the newspaper as part of its first public records request didn’t contain a response to Maizland’s inquiry.
After the newspaper went to press with its story on Giles’ closed session interview, a second public records request was made to the town to obtain the response to Maizland, which the newspaper had learned existed but had not been provided in the initial request.
Baxley’s two-fold response to the alderman, as well as her fellow board members, was that while the board didn’t “have anything to hide from the community,” the interview would be held in closed session to “[elicit] frank and open responses to [the board’s] questions.” Additionally, Baxley pointed to the possibility of “condemnation litigation” along Highway 61, a topic that he felt the board may not want discussed with Giles in open session.
In a follow-up phone interview with the newspaper, Baxley said that the prospective litigation concerned a residential property at the intersection of Highways 61 and 70, where the town has long been looking to extend water and sewer lines to encourage commercial, industrial, and, to a lesser extent, residential growth in the area. The lines will ultimately extend northward from there to Dew Sharpe Road.
Baxley told the reporter that all other property owners along the path of the upcoming lines had provided easements to the town. The town likewise made an offer to Thomas and Janice Tickle, who live at the corner of Highways 61 and 70. That offer was rejected after the homeowners said that the town’s offer didn’t correspond with the value of the one to two acres of land in question, which run parallel to the roadway.
In a phone interview with Janice Tickle on Wednesday, the homeowner gave her and her husband’s primary reasoning for not wanting to accept the town’s first offer: “An acre to two acres is a lot to give away when it’s valuable.”
Additionally, she told the reporter, she had concerns over the loss of trees and privacy.
To keep from losing financing on the project — Baxley told the newspaper Wednesday that the contract for financing required the town to have the title for the easement area in its name — staff filed a condemnation action which would’ve taken the owners to court to have the acreage turned over to the town, allowing for the lines to be run through their yard. The manager explained that the Tickles wouldn’t have been evicted from the property as a result of the condemnation.
Prior to taking the Tickles to court, however, Baxley said that a settlement had been reached and the couple had sold the easement to the town for $19,589.40.
Now having the easement, the town will move ahead with the project, which is estimated to cost about $1.5 million. Extending the lines is expected to be a year-long process, with a planned start date in April and completion scheduled for March 2022.
More recent Gibsonville news:
Developer wants aldermen’s OK to add 26 townhouses to subdivision approved for 55: https://alamancenews.com/developer-asks-gibsonville-board-to-allow-26-more-units-in-townhome-development-previously-approved-for-55/
Gibsonville hires new town attorney: https://alamancenews.com/gibsonville-board-hires-giles-as-town-attorney/