Skip to comments.‘Hanging over us’: Homeowners face uncertainty as I-395 plan ramps up
Posted on 04/10/2016 11:03:09 PM PDT by Tolerance Sucks Rocks
BREWER, Maine When Ken and Jo-Ann Arbo moved into their home in Eddington 22 years ago, they thought they found the perfect place to live.
I hunt right there. I fish out there. I snowmobile out there, Ken Arbo said of the woods and fields near the couples home. That is why we moved out there.
Now the Arbos face the real possibility of moving again.
Their Lambert Road home is within the path of the controversial I-395/Route 9 connector, a proposed two-lane road from Brewer to Eddington meant to ease heavy truck traffic and improve safety on nearby routes 46 and 1A, while also creating a more direct link from Canada to the U.S. highway system.
The Arbos and seven other homeowners in the area face losing their homes through eminent domain to make way for the connector. All told, an estimated 54 other properties in Brewer, Eddington and Holden will be affected, according to plans posted on the states website about the $61 million project.
The connector has been in planning stages for 16 years, a lengthy period that has the Arbos and others raising questions about the states communication about the plans and whether the projects initial aims to reduce truck traffic in Brewer and streamline the connection between the U.S. and Canadian highways still are justified.
The state admits that traffic increases on Route 9 east of Eddington have been significantly lower than projections, due in large part to the 2008-09 recession.
But the Maine Department of Transportation said recent data show an uptick in traffic, further indicating the project is necessary. The states revised projections, however, show a significant variance of possible traffic volumes extending to 2045.
The state also makes the case the connector will increase traffic safety. Data included in the project study indicate several intersections within the area to be served by the connector have higher-than-normal crash rates.
Data aside, the Arbos and others who live along the proposed connector route are upset by what they say is the states apparent disregard for those affected.
Ken Arbo said he had not been contacted the Department of Transportation about the project and its effect on his property.
It comes out in the paper before we even know about it, Jo-Ann Arbo said, referring to a Bangor Daily News article about a controversial regional transportation board endorsement of the project last month.
I didnt even realize what was going on, said Holden resident Richard Hatch, who stands to lose his backyard to the project.
Brewer resident Bill Butterfield, who returned to his hometown a decade ago and bought a house on Woodridge Road, said the planning process and opportunity for public comment have been confusing at best.
The states preferred route, which would be about 300 feet from his propertys boundary, was eliminated twice during the planning process only to be brought back.
Its the uncertainty. Yes, its in consideration. No, its not, he said. My issue is with the process and lack of thought.
Butterfield said he has issued public and written comments in opposition to the project, apparently to no effect.
I dont necessarily think my voice was being heard, Butterfield said. I feel like the result has already been determined. I think the process has been broken.
Jonathan Nass, deputy director of the Department of Transportation, said the state has taken great care to consider the concerns of residents, pointing out there have been 20 public advisory committee meetings, three public meetings and one public hearing on the project over the years.
MaineDOT has listened many times to residents that have submitted comments to us and responded to those comments, Nass wrote in an email, noting the project website includes a 332-page document consisting of meeting records, public comments and state responses.
The states preferred route for the connector known as 2B-2 would extend I-395 where it ends at Wilson Street in Brewer and roughly follow the Holden-Brewer line until entering Eddington and connecting with 4.2 miles of rebuilt Route 9.
The plan, which underwent several changes and drew opposition from affected local governments over the years, moved forward during a controversial meeting March 25.
At the meeting in Brewer, members of the Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation Systems policy committee said they felt forced to approve a new three-year plan that includes the I-395/Route 9 connector after being told by state officials that if they didnt they would risk losing $57 million in regional road project funding this year.
The Department of Transportation amendment approved reluctantly by the Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System committee provides $250,000 from the $57 million to prepare preliminary engineering and right-of-way documents for the connector.
Yet, during that meeting, both state and federal transportation officials deferred discussion on the continued merits of the project, which rankled officials.
We definitely got the impression that they believe the debate is over and its time to start building the road, Brewer City Manager Steve Bost said. I suggested that MDOT revisit the data supporting the project, given the changes that have taken place in the region which impact truck traffic [such as the declining paper industry]. I am not aware of any more public hearings on this issue, so this seemed the only forum available.
Opponents have held forums that attempted to stop the project. The Brewer City Council voted unanimously in opposition to the roadway. The Holden Town Council also voted against it. Eddington residents have voted against the plan and community leaders have spent years requesting and even suing for information about it. With a change in leadership last year, however, Eddington selectmen voted 3-2 to support the connector.
The planned route will go under two existing roads Eastern Avenue and Mann Hill Road and four bridges will be added over Lambert Road, Levenseller Road, Felts Brook and Eaton Brook. Eastbound traffic on Route 9 will hit a stop sign where it connects with the new route.
There are no access points to the two-lane road planned between the I-395 interchange and the Route 9 intersection.
Rights-of-way needed for the roadway will exceed 163 acres, with properties along the route losing between half an acre to 20.19 acres, with most averaging two and four acres, according to the plans.
The assessed value of those potentially displaced properties and residences range from approximately $50,000 to $340,000, with the majority between approximately $147,000 and $323,000.
The Department of Transportation project manager Nathan Howard said the best resource for understanding how property acquisition works is the departments Land Owners Guide to the Acquisition Process.
Generally, property rights for MaineDOT projects are acquired by eminent domain, in accordance with state and federal laws and Constitutional provisions, the guide states.
When the MaineDOT acquires a private property right by eminent domain, the owner must receive just compensation.
Just compensation is determined through the appraisal process, utilizing the principle of Fair Market Value, the guide states.
Even with the recent activity, the project has a long way to go, with an estimated completion date of 2025. But the acquisition of property would begin sooner.
Assuming a multi-year construction process, property acquisition would likely begin several years prior to 2025, Nass wrote in an email. We do have the ability to acquire property earlier upon request from the landowner.
All of which leaves property owners affected by the route faced with having to move or living near a busy road.
The ripple effects of the planned connector already have started, Bost, the Brewer city manager, said recently.
Since the Bangor Area Comprehensive Transportation System vote, the assessing department has been getting all kinds of calls from residents and real estate agents asking for an update on the roadway, he said.
One real estate agent stopped by his office and said a buyer got cold feet after learning the project would be near the home he wanted to buy.
Theyve got to disclose it, Bost said, referring to home sellers. Now, everyone is in a state of limbo.
When it hits Holden, the connector will run directly through Hatchs property. He bought his forever home in 2003 after living near Broadway Park in Bangor for years.
Its coming right through my backyard, he said, while out walking his dog. Our bedroom is on that side of the house. I cant imagine how were going to be able to sleep at night.
Its a nice, peaceful neighborhood, Hatch said. That will all change. Its going to ruin the property.
The connector will cut the adjacent Lakeman family parcel on Levenseller Road in Holden nearly in half, according to Steve Lakeman, owner and operator of Lakeman & Sons salvage yard.
Its awful, Lakeman said. This land has been in the Lakeman family forever. This [company] incorporated in 1965 and I dont know what its going to do to the business. Its not good.
Larry and Mary Adams, who live about 100 feet from the projects line near its crossing with Eastern Avenue in Brewer, have made fighting the project their lifes work.
We dont know the full impact, Larry Adams said, sitting at his kitchen table as his wife leaned against the wall. We do know they are going to be blasting. They are going to go under Eastern Avenue 40 feet. We dont know what that will do to our septic. Were worried about our water and our foundation. I cant even start to imagine how bad the noise will be, or the smells.
There are 22 properties in Brewer affected by this. Were all losers, Mary Adams said.
Larry Adams, who has filed 57 pages of questions and concerns about the project that are part of the states record, said the reason 2B-2 is back on the table is it had fewer vernal pools than the other identified routes.
Its neverending, Adams said. For 16 years this has been hanging over us.
I die a little bit every time another step in the process is made, he said.
Nass of the Department of Transportation said he understands the frustration voiced by those affected by the connector.
With a project of this size not everyone will be pleased with the outcome and final decision, however, we stand by the process and the decision that Alternative 2B-2 is the preferred alternative and the only one that could be constructed since it is the Least Environmentally Damaging Practicable Alternative (LEDPA) as determined by the Army Corps of Engineers, Nass said in an email.
Meanwhile, Ken Arbo said he has not given up hope that he will be offered a fair price for his home in Eddington.
Well see what happens, Arbo said.
I leased, and was going to buy, an 1836 farm in Sagamore Hills, on the edge of the Cuyahoga Valley Park. The govt seized 100 acres of the property. You can’t even see it from the Park. I miss it! I could cut all the wood I needed for the furnace, and hunt geese from the back porch for dinner. My friends and I took 15 deer one year. I miss that place. Living in town now,
Today, we pay eternal property taxes that are essentially "rent" to our feudal masters. The government can dictate to us what we can build, cannot build, or use our property for. And if they want it, they just take it.
Want to hear something crazy? Hitler wanted to rebuild Berlin entirely into a first class capital city with straight roads and ordered building but was unable to because property rights were too strong in Nazi Germany. He was relived when the bombing raids destroyed so much the city making it much easier take people’s land and re-build the city into what he wanted.
You heard it first, a dictator like Hitler has less power over property than your average city planning commission in America.
Roads get built and gummint takes the right of way via eminent domain, get over it.
I hunt and fish and love the out doors, but I like the fact that I can use a paved road to get me within walking distance of the wild life.
Those roads go through someone's private property.
The next time you get in your vehicle and drive anywhere, think about the road and who owned the land before it was built.
The owners who get bought out using eminent domain are the lucky ones. Those left to be near the road are screwed.
“The next time you get in your vehicle and drive anywhere, think about the road and who owned the land before it was built.”
I’m with you - this is just another example of how the left uses our complaints against us (in this case, our understandable anger at Kelo). Roads need to happen when you have a growing population and more and more cars on the road. If they’re being done in a way that actually HELPS people, rather than robs them, then they should be built. The relative handful of people on the right-of-ways are simply out of luck.
Same applies for airports, military bases, pretty much everything that government does which requires land.
Really? Did you even bother to read the article? Traffic is DOWN through that area. Why bother to build the connector when it’s not needed? Almost all of today’s “road projects” are crony awards to keep the union contractors busy.
Yeah, I read the article and "REALLY?" don't give a shit about some backwoods folks and their bitch about a road through their little piece of heaven.
The article was about eminent domain and bad gummint vs good people in the woods with bambi.
I don't know or care if the project is required or if it gets done, it happens all time.
As far as this International Corridor stuff goes, it can be stopped. Look at proposed I-73, it would in part from Toledo to Jackson, Michigan over what is now US-223.
Look what was done to stop I-73 and do the same thing.
It seems like they can’t build a mile of freeway for under a 100 million any more, and it is nuts.
NIMBYs in several states also cost us too much by having the Obama Administration stop the Keystone XL pipeline.
We have been living under totalatarian rule for a long time but refusing to admit it. Some still refuse to see it.