Village of Ballston Spa, Senior Citizens, Local Business All Sue City of Saratoga Springs Over Use of Eminent Domain to Construct Dangerous Geyser Road Trail
The Village of Ballston Spa, John and Marie Pompay, and the Saratoga Spring Water Company (the “Petitioners”) have jointly filed a petition in the Supreme Court, Appellate Division, Third Department in Albany challenging the actions of Mayor Joanne Yepsen and the Saratoga Springs City Council’s decision to use the City’s eminent domain powers to seize property from the Petitioners’ to use for the proposed Geyser Road Trail.
“The City of Saratoga Springs has pulled off a remarkable trifecta by alienating its municipal neighbors, a wonderful senior couple in the Pompays’ (Jack Pompay is also a US Army veteran), and the most recognized business in Saratoga Springs”, said Karl Sleight, the attorney representing the Village, the Pompays’ and Saratoga Spring Water Company. “It is a very sad day, when City officials force our neighbors, seniors, veterans, and businesses to seek protection at the courthouse from an arrogant use of eminent domain for a project that will endanger children.” continued Sleight.
In a press release sent by Sleight, he says “The Geyser Road Trail has had a rocky procedural history. It is a proposed shared use trail that would run along the north side of Geyser Road (Route 43) from the Milton town line to the intersection of Geyser Road and State Route 50. That stretch of road represents the most heavily used commercial corridor in Saratoga Springs, as it connects the Grande Industrial Park with Route 50 and thereafter the Northway and Thruway. More than 800 tractor trailers use the busy road each day.”
The City’s trail project has been the subject of intense controversy since the City started eminent domain proceedings in January. A local grassroots organization, START Saratoga (Safe Trails Are Responsible Trails) was created to promote alternatives and advocate against the City’s unsafe trail. START Saratoga has a Facebook page that follows the trail controversy.
After the legality of the Jan., 2017 proceedings was called into question, in March, the City scrapped and restarted its environmental review process.
In July, Saratoga Eagle and the Slack Chemical companies announced that they were willing to donate access to their 54 acres of property for an alternative, the Duplainville Road Trail. Mayor Joanne Yepsen and City Council members John Franck, Michele Madigan, Skip Scirocco and Christopher Mathiesen failed to evaluate the alternative. Mayor Yepsen and Commissioner Mathiesen have declined to run for re-election this fall.
In September, an independent engineering firm hired by Saratoga Eagle issued a detailed assessment and found the City’s proposed trail was “unsafe”. The engineering assessment was provided to the City, which discarded the assessment and instead commenced eminent domain proceedings.
Later in September, after the City’s decision to use eminent domain, the Village of Ballston Spa Board of Trustees voted across party lines to hire the law firm of Harris Beach, PLLC and to commence this litigation.
Mayor John Romano, with the support of the board capped total legal expenses at $15k, with an initial retainer of $5k payable to Harris Beach, PLLC.
Harris Beach also represents John and Marie Pompay, lifelong residents of Saratoga Springs who are both in their 80’s and the Saratoga Spring Water Company, which was founded in 1872 and serves sparkling water in its distinctive blue bottles around the world.