A Swannanoa greenway would be nice, but not by eminent domain

It would be very nice to have a greenway through Swannanoa, but the questions regarding eminent domain need to be addressed. There is a map floating around Swannanoa of a proposed greenway. There are properties along the route, and many are working farms. Imagine if you owned one of them, saw this map with a line drawn through your property and had not been contacted about it.

So how does one find out about eminent domain issues regarding this?

The same organization that started the failed incorporation drive created a greenway committee. This committee is specifically headed by the attorney who represented their incorporation task force. They had a "Visioning Meeting," and then the map appeared. Considering their past history of not communicating with people who oppose their ideas, it seems frivolous to try to contact them about the eminent domain issue. The Parks and Recreation Department was contacted. They said they are doing a feasibility study right now, and eminent domain is a legal issue. They advised writing a letter to the county Board of Commissioners. When asked if the affected property owners were being called during the feasibility study, they said that comes at the "next stage." If eminent domain is not on the table, not calling land owners for permission would make this study a waste of time and taxpayers money. But it sounds like it is on the table, and they do not want to be on record as saying so.

A letter could be sent to the county Board. I don't think it would get past the secretary's desk because they did not return a phone call regarding the matter.

Unfortunately, eminent domain has been used for such things as widening highways and [running] sewer lines. But it is mesmerizing to think the government can forcibly take land so that people can skip, ride unicycles, and click their heels from side to side through someone's property.

A lot of united Swannanoa residents want to know two things:
1) Can one of the groups involved explain the laws regarding eminent domain and greenways?
2) Can the groups involved put in writing that eminent domain is out of the question?

If these questions are answered, property owners who are affected will not be helplessly walking on eggshells for months, and everyone can get excited about finding a way to put a greenway through. This is an issue that needs to be nipped in the bud before it is too late.

— John Kelleher

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8 thoughts on “A Swannanoa greenway would be nice, but not by eminent domain

  1. Lucy Crown

    There is a great deal of misunderstanding in the Swannanoa community about the feasibility study that is being conducted along the Swannanoa River/US 70 Corridor. The Buncombe COunty Parks, Greenways, and Recreation Services have been trying to meet with people and groups in Swannanoa to clear up these misunderstandings. We have no interest in using eminent domain as a means of land azquisition. If anyone has questions regarding this feasibility study, please feel free to contact me for the answers at lucy.crown@buncombecounty.org.
    Lucy Crown, AICP
    Park and Greenway Planner
    Buncombe County Parks, Greenways, and Recreation Services.

  2. invisiblefriend

    Key word regarding Lucy’s comment: “no interest”. It seems like the first question was answered, which means that eminent domain is a possibility and within the law. The second question was answered quite vauguely. “We will not” would be a better answer to that question proposed. I smell a fish…..

  3. brebro

    What if people promise not to skip, click heels or ride unicycles through their property and agree that all transit through said right of way would entail only non-flamboyant ambulation?

  4. frankwhitehorse

    There have been several meetings on the greenways issue. Most of them, as stated, have been instigated by the same group that tried to ram incorporation down the throats of Swannanoa citizens. It is understandable that any continued activity by this group is viewed with suspicion, since they were untrustworthy in this most important issue and since they do not seem to realize that they do NOT represent the people of Swannanoa. That said, one meeting WAS held that included folks other that that exclusive group. A lot of good information was obtained. However, the most urgent concern was that no greenway gets imposed without land-owner consent. I am of the writer’s opinion that a letter, to the effect that no land will be forcibly taken, would go a long way. Words like “no interest” are not enforcable.

  5. Cheshire

    I’d just be happy with a place to walk along highway 70 that’s not in traffic. Sidewalk, multi-use path, whatever. Something that lets me get places without using the car that doesn’t put me in the path of 60+mph traffic that hates lane sharing. I’d be tickled pink if that kind of path allowed me to walk my dog off of my dead-end road. We’re both bored to tears with walking up and down from my house to the hwy 70 intersection and back.

  6. orulz

    I am sure that nobody involved in any government plan that involves right-of-way acquisition will completely renounce the power of eminent domain. Refusing to completely renounce eminent domain does NOT mean that the county refuses to negotiate in good faith with the community.

    What if out of 100 property owners along the greenway, 99 agree that the greenway is worthwhile and are given a reasonable offer, and sell their land willingly. Then there’s one holdout who wouldn’t really be unjustly impacted by the project and was also given a reasonable offer, but decides to hold the project (and the taxpayers financing the project) hostage, demanding twenty times what his land is worth. Of course they should, and will, use eminent domain in such a situation.

    Categorically renouncing Eminent Domain opens the door to such situations and more. The existence of the power of eminent domain is precisely what allows planning and land acquisition for public infrastructure to take place out in the open, rather than behind closed doors like private development. If there were no such thing as ED, then a small minority group wishing to block the project could go in as soon as they see the map and buy up as many plots as they can and then refuse to sell. Or worse, speculators could go and buy up lots, hoping to profit off of the taxpayer money funding the project.

    Basically, just the fact that the power of ED exists is enough to prevent rampant speculation as above. Thanks to this, it is generally practiced rarely. Probably if there are more than perhaps five or six holdouts compared to the 100 lots I mention above, it’s unlikely that the project will proceed. But when it is practiced, it is swift, and its legality has been tested and approved in the courts time and time again so it is nearly impossible to stop.

  7. invisiblefriend

    You make sense regarding emrergency situations, or where society would suffer if the project was not complete. But we are talking about greenways here. Lets just say that 99% of the owners agree, and we have one holdout. Maybe a family who bought the land with hard earned money two generations ago, and has been farming it, and relies on it for food, or maybe would have to get rid of a couple of horses if the government took the land? Not someone trying to hold the project hostage. Is it right for the government to take the land for recreational purposes?
    Thank you for explaining this. The picture is coming together. We now have a clearer picture that eminent domain is “on the table” as the author of the letter puts it. Why cant the powers that be at least admit it, as you so willingly have. Thats where trust begins.

  8. frankwhitehorse

    Oruiz, your position assumes that anyone who doesn’t want to agree to a project, be it greenway or other, is simply being greedy. You posit that one or two people will hold out only so they can demand value many times greater than market demand. Or, you claim, groups will come in and buy up parcels cheaply, then demand ransom from the project facilitators. What a specious argument about the nature of man. Or is this a case of “it takes one to know one”?? The people I know don’t act with such financially-oriented self-interest. How about, just for a moment, imagining that some of us simply don’t want the public marauding in our yards and across our private properties. Never mind invading our farms and fields? I have a much easier time visualizing the litter, vandalism and lack of respect for fences and boundaries that I witness every day, than that one of my neighbors is simply holding out for filthy lucre! And no, I will not agree to a greenway crossing my acreage, nor will I be surprised when the government seizes my land by eminent domain in the name of John Q. Public. And no, my land is not for sale AT ANY PRICE!!

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