The Buffalo-based company building a $177 million natural-gas pipeline through the region is taking nearly a dozen Ontario County property owners to court. Attorneys for Empire Pipeline Inc. have summoned the owners to appear in state Supreme Court in an eminent-domain proceeding tentatively set for April 3.
The Buffalo-based company building a $177 million natural-gas pipeline through the region is taking nearly a dozen Ontario County property owners to court.
Attorneys for Empire Pipeline Inc. have summoned owners of 11 properties to appear in state Supreme Court at the Ontario County Court House in an eminent-domain proceeding tentatively set for April 3.
In December 2006, when the federal government gave Empire the green light to build the 77-mile line, it also gave the company the power to cross properties via the state’s eminent domain law, said Empire spokeswoman Julie Coppola Cox.
“The court proceedings are a last resort,” she said. “We work with each landowner to come up with a right-of-way agreement.”
Empire tries to reach an agreement that involves paying “fair compensation” for a permanent easement, she said, taking into account the assessed value of the land and inconveniences maintaining the pipeline will cause.
“When we have reached an impasse, where there is no movement,” Empire can take the property owners to court, she said. “We can’t build a pipeline with gaps in it.”
But some property owners say Empire isn’t doing its part to reach fair agreements over easements.
“They want to come through some pretty good farmland,” said Charles McNamara, who farms 130 acres on Smith Road in Hopewell.
The company has targeted a work area 125 feet wide by 660 feet long to bury its 24-inch diameter pipe on his land, said McNamara, one of four Hopewell property owners due in court. “That’s two acres of ground, some of my better ground,” he said.
McNamara said he was in talks with Empire about coming up with fair compensation, then, out of the blue, “I got served with these papers.”
Empire also left a sour taste in the mouth of Farmington property owner James Cargnoni. Cargnoni said he gave the company permission to survey his land three years ago, but expected he would be notified before they actually went on his property.
Instead, they arrived unannounced and staked a path right through his 16-acre field, said Cargnoni, who lives on Collett Road. He would have been open to routing the line along the edge of his property, he said, as that wouldn’t hinder future plans to build a house or sell the land for development. But those dreams are fading as he wonders how to handle the court case.
“They never negotiated with me,” Cargnoni said.
Before getting the court summons this month, the last time he had heard from Empire was in 2006, he said.
The pipeline is crossing 350 properties in Ontario, Yates, Schuyler, Chemung and Steuben counties. Coppola Cox said 95 percent of the property owners have signed right-of-way agreements, with Empire so far having taken “fewer than 10” to court.
In Ontario County, the line will cross 182 parcels. So far, 148 property owners have signed agreements, she said. But 34 have not signed, including the 11 going to court.
Coppola Cox said she expects some of those summoned will settle with Empire before the court date.
“You can come to an agreement up to the time you step before the judge,” she said.
Contact Daily Messenger writer Julie Sherwood at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 263, or at firstname.lastname@example.org