By Neale Gulley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — North Tonawanda officials will use eminent domain to acquire the last of four small chunks of land the city must own before work to extend Meadow Drive through to Erie Avenue can begin.
That is, unless a deal between the city and three co-owners of the land can first be resolved according to terms hashed out more than a year ago.
City Attorney Shawn Nickerson said one owner of the 9,800 square-foot parcel off Erie Avenue attended a public hearing on Wednesday, and “seemed to be in favor of selling the parcel to the city,” although officials are still seeking to close on a deal to buy the parcel for $3,000.
Nickerson said an agreement was reached in late 2011 to purchase the tiny, isolated strip of land, but for reasons unknown to city officials, the parties have not come together to finalize the deal.
“This is the remaining, final piece of the puzzle, so to speak,” he said. “In an effort to move this thing along, I started a condemnation proceeding.”
For years the city has worked successfully to obtain three other oddly-shaped parcels making up an overall four and-a-half-acre right of way needed to extend Meadow Drive
Two such easements owned by CSX railroad were finally deeded to the city last month, after years of wrangling. Another small chunk of land was obtained through tax foreclosure.
Each small piece of land is one piece in a chunk of property near Erie Avenue and the nearby CSX train tracks the city must own before the city can be awarded roughly $1.4 million in federal funding obtained many years ago but never used.
The government funding — which is administered through the state Department of Transportation — covers a large portion of the overall $2 million project, and was obtained as an earmark years ago. The funds would have expired soon if the project had not gotten under way.
Once grant and other funding is deducted, the city is left with about 20 percent of the cost — though City Engineer Dale Marshall said state aid will be applied to cover most of that figure.
Most significantly, the project is hoped to alleviate east/west traffic though the city and connect a large residential area to the growing mid-city business district containing much of the municipality’s service and retail presence.
The project has been stuck in limbo in the last year or so, even as the city pressed past obstacles including land acquisition and the lifting of a New York State Department of Environmental Conservation wetland designation on land slated for the project.
Marshall said acquiring the last parcel could hold up the project by about a month, though he plans to begin work in March with an approximate 90-day work period that would wrap up the extension by June.
“It will be built in 2013, there’s no doubt about it,” he said.Contact City Editor Neale Gulley at 693-1000, Ext. 4114.