Caroga considering eminent domain to reclaim popular roadway

CAROGA – Town board members are trying to regain access to land that once was a popular destination for snowmobilers through an eminent domain procedure law.

This law gives municipal government power to take private property for public use.

According to a release, Charles F. and Helen Johnson have claimed ownership to the roadway adjacent to their property along Morey Road and have blocked its usage by the public.

The Town Board will hold a public hearing discussing the Morey Road project on Oct. 12 at 7 p.m.

According to the release, the town is proposing to acquire property that has consistently been used to access state lands. The property is approximately 15 feet wide and such length as is required to access the state land along the Johnson properties on the north and south sides of Morey Road, the release stated. The project involves taking the rights, if any owned by the Johnsons, to maintain the status quo of public access to the land owned by New York state which residents use for recreational activities, according to the release.

“In order to clarify any questions concerning property boundary lines, the town is proposing to acquire this property through eminent domain,” the release said.

Board member Jeremy Manning said the town has been in an ownership dispute over the portion of this road for a couple years.

“We have been involved in an ownership dispute over a portion of this old road and have been unsuccessful in reaching an agreement with the landowner. The town has subsequently decided that it is in the interest of the public to acquire this small portion of land given that it is currently a major snowmobile corridor and has been used as such for decades,” he said.

Town board member Beth Morris said the road has been blocked for “no rhyme or reason.” Snowmobilers have used this trail for years, she said. The trail gives riders access to other towns and benefits tourism.

“In a good snowy winter you can see the whole Vrooman’s side parking lot filled with snowmobiles. It really does have an impact. We have to have that trail open,” Morris said.

The Campers Corner Store is another business which would benefit from regaining access to the road.

“Several local businesses depend on winter tourism, and snowmobilers both locally and throughout the region have come to depend on this corridor as a direct route into the town of Caroga and its available resources. Additionally, acquiring this land will also guarantee year round public access to the adjacent state forest and existing hiking trails,” Manning said.

Town officials will be available to answer questions during the public hearing. The town attorney will also be present.

Morris said the town is working to get the issue resolved as soon as possible.

“While the eminent domain process may seem extreme, it should be noted that the town has explored all options,” Manning said.

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