Richland starts condemnation process of land to boost safety at intersection
Richland officials plan to take private land for public use in order to boost traffic safety at the intersection of Bakerstown, Grubbs and State roads.
The township's supervisors voted 3-0 on Nov. 20 to initiate condemnation proceeds to acquire 1,499 square feet of property owned by St. Barnabas Land Trust Inc. at the intersection
Herb Dankmyer, a subcontractor for St. Barnabas Health System and chairman of Richland's supervisors, abstained from the vote.
Supervisor Ray Kendrick did not attend the meeting.
Richland officials want the slice of land in order to align Grubbs and State roads where they meet Bakerstown Road, as recommended by a traffic study performed for Chatham University as part of the university's efforts to develop Chatham's Eden Hall campus, township manager Dean Bastianini said.
But the attorney for St. Barnabas Land Trust said the roads' realignment is unnecessary.
“The stated reasons for taking the property, in our judgment, do not justify it,” said attorney Walter DeForest on behalf of the land trust.
“If you travel that road, any (safety) issue would be addressed if they put up a traffic light there,” DeForest said “The stated misalignment (of Grubbs and State roads) is not a factor in any safety issue.”
The land slated for condemnation is part of 47 acres the land trust owns and by a rental property near the corner of Grubbs and Bakerstown roads.
“The land they would take would put the road (Grubbs) closer to the building,” DeForest said. “It's currently rented as a residence.”
Richland wants to acquire the land for permanent construction rights of ways, temporary construction easements and utility easements. Plans call for the relocation of existing utility poles.
Township officials previously asked leaders of the land trust to donate the ground.
Officials of the land trust declined that request.
“We've been in negotiations with St. Barnabas (Land Trust) through the summer,” Bastianini said. “They declined our request that they donate the property in exchange for changes that we were willing to make to lessen the impact on the existing home.”
Richland supervisors also voted Nov. 20 to hire Howard Hanna Real Estate to provide appraisal services for the land they want to acquire.
“Chatham and Richland agreed to improve this intersection,” said Walt Fowler, vice president for finance and administration at Chatham University. “It has always been an unsafe intersection, and some of our students may use this route.”
Chatham University has received a $100,000 grant in state gaming revenue — and its officials agreed to pay another $44,000 — to cover the anticipated $144,000 cost of improving the intersection.
“The condemnation will play out over the next couple months,” Fowler said. “It is our expectation that the intersection project will be complete by the end of the summer of 2014.
“Once complete, all the Richland neighbors using this intersection, including both Chatham students and employees and St. Barnabas residents and employees, will be much safer,” Fowler said.
Deborah Deasy is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 724-772-6369 or firstname.lastname@example.org.