Kingsport, mayoral candidate in dispute over property easements

Matthew Lane • Mar 9, 2013 at 9:41 AM

KINGSPORT — The city of Kingsport has taken a mayoral candidate to court over property easements for sewer and road projects in recently annexed areas of the Rock Springs community.

Kingsport filed petitions for condemnation against Gary Lane, a Domtar electrician who is running against Mayor Dennis Phillips in the May 21 city election. The condemnation petitions were filed in Sullivan County Law Court in November 2010 and October 2012 — well before Lane filed his petition to run for mayor with the Sullivan County Election Commission.

An easement is where a property owner grants another party the use of their property, either temporarily (such as for storing equipment or material) or permanently (in the case of installing sewer lines or constructing a road).

Kingsport offers a monetary amount — determined by an appraisal — to the property owner for the easement. However, if the property owner refuses to grant the easement, for whatever reason, Kingsport can file a petition of condemnation to acquire the property in order to move forward with the project.

In this case, Kingsport and Lane have signed off on Agreed Orders of Possession, meaning the city can use the property, with the final compensation determined by a judge at a later date.

A court date on the matter has not been scheduled.

“We’re negotiating and we’ll eventually come to terms on it,” Lane said.

The first condemnation petition was filed Nov. 4, 2010, regarding property required for the first phase of the Rock Springs Road improvement project, a project that has since been completed.

According to court records, Kingsport argues the value of the easement is $610.

The other two condemnation petitions were filed on Oct. 11, 2012, and deal with sewer easements along two properties owned by Lane, for the Stonetree sanitary sewer extension project. The $2 million project calls for 12,400 feet of sewer line installed and 9,700 feet of water line upgrades. It began in August 2012 and is scheduled to be completed in August of this year.

According to court records, Kingsport had these two properties appraised and claims $2,600 is adequate compensation for the easements.

The property in question is owned by Lane and was annexed by Kingsport roughly five years ago when the city was making a big annexation push in the Rock Springs community. Lane, who lives in the Tri-Cities Crossing area and was annexed about three years ago, has said he believes Kingsport should only annex by referendum.

Public Works Director Ryan McReynolds said the bulk of sewer easements are approved by the property owners fairly quickly, with some questions asked for clarity purpose. McReynolds said it is very rare that Kingsport has to proceed with condemnation for sewer easements.

“In Rock Springs, for the most part (the property owners) have been fairly receptive,” he said.

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