2018-08-08 / Front Page

Angry Citizens Object to Land Grab By Delaware County

By Rosie Cunningham

Delhi Village Mayor Richard Maxey suggested the board continue to utilize Page Avenue for the county DPW facility. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter Delhi Village Mayor Richard Maxey suggested the board continue to utilize Page Avenue for the county DPW facility. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter DELHI - More than 100 taxpayers showed up at a public hearing Monday to tell the Delaware County Board of Supervisors they do not like how they do business.

The Delaware County Department of Public Works (DPW) and the supervisors held the meeting to listen to community members weigh in on the county’s decision to use eminent domain proceedings to seize part of Bob and Joyce Bishop’s Hamden property to build new facilities for the DPW.

DPW Commissioner Wayne Reynolds provided a short overview of the time line of events, nearly all of which was disputed by the Bishops.

Bob Bishop interjected that the county never gave a formal offer. Reynolds said the Bishop’s asking price is $1.2 million, as well as $120,000 for an option to do the investigations - 59 acres and the cost per acre would be $22,370. Reynolds indicated the price is too much to spend of the taxpayers’ money.

Joyce Bishop said she asked the Delaware County Board of Supervisors to stop eminent domain proceedings. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter Joyce Bishop said she asked the Delaware County Board of Supervisors to stop eminent domain proceedings. Rosie Cunningham/The Reporter South Kortright’s Beth Mc- Guire, a real estate agent, said the board needs more transparency.

“As for an offer,” she said. “An offer is not an offer unless there is a contract and a check.”

An appraisal took place in February, initiated by the Delaware County Attorney Amy Merklen. The value determined was $400,000.

“We welcomed an appraisal from the Bishops,” said Reynolds, who added that the Bishop’s refused to have a second appraisal by the county.

“That’s not true,” said Joyce Bishop. “The first time you stood me up, the second time it snowed and the third time I found out at 4:30 in the afternoon that the appraiser would be coming the next day. I have seven grandkids who I watch and transport and I asked if the appraisal could be scheduled for the end of the school year, which was 10 days later.”

“You’re appraisal was phony,” said an emotional Bob Bishop to Reynolds. “No measurements were taken, you were there for a short period of time and you made an offer which is a third of our asking price and now you intend to steal our property. Pay our price or move on - you and the board have betrayed public trust and it’s our responsibility to be outspoken and say no more. This is a calico outfit and we are here to blow our tin horns as our forefathers did before us.”

Joyce continued to read correspondence between herself and Reynolds and said there has been an all-around lack of communication.

“We requested that the county stop eminent domain proceedings and this request was rejected,” she said.

“I think you should honor their price,” said Walton resident Robert Vitti. “I am a building supply owner and I know how much money the Bishops put into their house and property.”

Vitti and additional residents at the meeting voiced concern that the precedent for using eminent domain would be set and indicated that the supervisors have reversed their role.

“Fight the City of New York, fight the watershed for their property - you don’t fight the Bishops,” he said.

Walton resident Bruce Dolph urged the board to “take a step back.”

“Eminent domain is a poor way to do business,” he said.

Todd Heyn, a representative from the New York Farm Bureau, and Delaware County Farm Bureau President Duane Martin stated that the lobbying agency is “in opposition to eminent domain.”

“We will stand with the Bishops,” said Martin.

He added that there are more than 200 county Farm Bureau members who will stand behind the Bishops as well, and thousands across New York state.

“Our members support private property owners,” said Heyn. “When you have other options, you walk away - we are in total opposition of this.”

“I never thought I would see the day that our own supervisors would do that to one of us,” said Keath Davis, owner of Breakey Motors in Walton. He said his family members had lost land to New York City through eminent domain. “The supervisors once fought against this so the city could not take private property.”

Davis added that he has been selling cars for about 60 years and the way the supervisors are doing business is out of the ordinary.

“I don’t care what their property is assessed for - if someone didn’t want to pay my price for a car, I would tell them to buy one elsewhere.”

Hamden Supervisor Wayne Marshfield, who voted against the resolution, said he is against eminent domain.

“I do not believe in the seizing of property and leaving ‘the least desirable remnants’ for the property owner.”

Marshfield added that details have changed over the months.

“We were negotiating prices,” he said. “What happened to $1 million? At first, the house was going to be cut out and resold and we didn’t know what the house was worth. Now, we are going to build the complex behind the house.”

He added that proper studies have not been conducted and details regarding the use of the amenities on the property has changed.

In searching for alternatives, Marshfield suggested the option of turning over winter maintenance to the towns and many in the audience agreed.

“I was not for this in the past but now, circumstances have changed,” he said.

Stamford Supervisor Michael Triolo told those in attendance that Reynolds had suggested that situation 10 years ago to much opposition and said “history repeats itself.”

County residents said they believe the board establishes “artificial limitations” on property requirements for DPW site options. Prior to dispute over eminent domain, the McFarland site — was a location the DPW committee supported. However, the public opposed that location as well. Particularly due to the need to construct a bridge and access road.

Rebuilding at the current site has been ruled out because it is in a flood plain. Many in the room, however, felt that was the most prudent choice given the circumstances.

“The floodplain issue could be dealt with,” said resident Horace Lee.

Village of Delhi Mayor Richard Maxey suggested that the facilities remain in Delhi, to avoid controversy.

“It may not be ideal,” he said. “But there is no opposition and I have offered to work with the committee.”

Al Perkins, the deputy supervisor of the town of Delhi, said Delaware County is experiencing a reduction in population and taxes have become too expensive.

“We need to deliver services and we need to work smarter,” he said. “This project should be a capital project and the decision should not be made by a DPW committee. Our supervisors fought the city regarding eminent domain and now, we are doing it to our citizens.”

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