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Resident plans court action as town uses eminent domain

Washington Street sidewalk project headed for public hearing, votes
By Daniel Dunkle | Aug 13, 2020
Courtesy of: Karin Pennoyer Signs have been put up protesting the taking of land by eminent domain.

Camden — “I plan to see them in court,” said Karin Pennoyer of Washington Street.

Pennoyer said she will lose part of a driveway she needs for her property next to Shirttail Point. The town and the Maine Department of Transportation are widening the road and putting in a sidewalk on the northeastern side of Washington Street.

Pennoyer said the town has been using two different assessments of the value of her property, a higher one to assess her property taxes, and a lower one to assess how much she is owed as the town seizes property through eminent domain.

The town hired Fred Bucklin of Bucklin Appraisal, which found last year that the property was valued at $118,055.

Based on this, the town offered her $1,650 as compensation for the edge of the driveway being taken.

However, when she received her tax bill this year for that, the town assessed the same land as being valued at $246,700. That assessment went up by $71,500 since 2018.

She argues under the town’s assessment, she should be offered $3,189 for the land taken instead of $1,650. When she talked to the town about this, she was offered an additional $500.

The Select Board voted at its Aug. 4 meeting to go forward with plans for a public hearing Aug. 18 on taking property by eminent domain.

“They don’t have to negotiate fairly with you,” Pennoyer said. “If they’re going to flex the eminent domain muscle, no one is safe.”

“...We must comply with MDOT procedures, rules and requirements for property acquisition,” Town Manager Audra Caler said.

“A private licensed real estate appraiser with proper qualifications was hired and they prepared an objective estimate of the damages to the subject parcel by the project. The Maine DOT maintains an appraiser registry and the appraiser we hired is on that registry and has performed valuation work on federal-aid projects previously.

"The process also requires an ‘appraisal review’ either done by the ‘qualified staff’ or by a ‘licensed and certified appraiser, not associated with the person who did the original appraisal.’ The town hired a licensed-certified appraiser to ‘peer review’ the appraisal. The reviewing appraiser provided quality assurance by checking the original appraiser’s computations, methods and techniques.”

Asked why these figures differed from those used to assess her property for property taxes, Caler explained, “Much like we need to follow MDOT regulations for appraising property for acquisitions we also need to follow State Law on how to assess property for taxation. The methodology for appraising real estate is different from assessing.”

“We assess all property in town using recent sales to establish value because the state Constitution (Article 9, section 8) requires that we assess at just value,” said town Assessor Kerry Leichtman.

“Maine Supreme Court decisions have equated just value as being synonymous with market value. The methodologies we employ all flow from that Constitutional directive. Acquisition appraisals, no doubt, follow different standards and criteria.”

In addition to the money issue, Pennoyer is worried she will not be able to park her trucks safely in the driveway once it is shortened. She wants the town to give her two more feet to provide for that and argues her property, which serves as vacation rental, contributes to the state economy.

“We’ve also sent the property owner a final offer,” Caler said. “If this offer is accepted there will be no need to move forward with a taking by eminent domain. However, given that we’re running up against deadlines for the November ballot we need to begin this process in the event we’re unable to come to an agreement.”

A visit to this section of Washington Street shows that several of the homes and driveways are quite close to the busy roadway and traffic there moves fast. Pedestrians and bicyclists use the street in the area where the project is planned.

“My understanding is that the town has been working with this person for a long time, but that no resolution could be found and that a point was reached where it seems the public benefit of proceeding in a certain way outweighs the private interest here,” said Select Board Vice Chair Alison McKellar.

“This project has been underway since 2011, when it was originally funded by MDOT,” Caler said. “The rationale behind it was to have a continuous sidewalk to Shirttail Point, which is heavily used, particularly in the warmer months.”

The sidewalk project will stretch from Matthew John Ave. to Shirttail Point.

The public hearing on the eminent domain proceedings is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18, via Zoom. From there, the issue will go to a special town meeting Nov. 3.

Caler asked that anyone who wants to comment during a public hearing must email her at acaler@camdenmaine.gov or Janice Esancy at jesancy@camdenmaine.gov, and they would be provided a link to the meeting.

Karin Pennoyer said she needs the length of her driveway, which would have to be cut back to accommodate the new sidewalk project, because she has trucks she needs to park safely there. (Photo by: Daniel Dunkle)
This map shows the area on Washington Street near Shirttail Point that will have a new sidewalk. (Source: Google maps)
In this image, you can see vehicles in Karin Pennoyer's driveway. (Source: Google maps)
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Comments (2)
Posted by: Gregory D Kibitz | Aug 14, 2020 08:31

If you also make her driveway useless, then her loss is surely greater than simply the thin strip of land, which seems already undervalued. Town should have to move her house back.

Seriously no, but that's the problem, current set back, and lack of an already town/state owned roadside strip (right of way?), which will likely also be a problem again for her in the future.



Posted by: johanna stadler | Aug 13, 2020 17:25

don't know, but it sure sounds like a crock to me.  I love how the little homeowner always gets screwed over.  My land is eroding into the ocean, but oddly enough as the property gets smaller the taxes continue to just skyrocket.



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