However, some residents said after the Nov. 15 meeting they believe the town will decide to implement its original preferred solution of using eminent domain to claim the town’s easements on their property, wherein neighbors would lose from 7-26 feet of their properties from their current fence lines.
The project is to fix a deteriorating section of 36-inch sewer pipe that runs along the Western Canal, about 20 feet below ground, on land that is owned by the residents, but for which the town and electric utility Salt River Project have easements—a legal right to cross or otherwise access someone’s land for a specified purpose.
SRP’s easement is to maintain overhead electrical utility lines that run along the canal. For the town, it is to maintain the sewer—a 24-inch potable water pipeline and an 18-inch reclaimed water line—all located under ground. Those lines serve about 25,000 households in Gilbert, town spokesperson Jennifer Harrison said.
Town officials said they believe all three pipelines, built in the 1980s, will soon need refurbishment. The residents affected live along Hemlock Avenue, Commerce Avenue and Honeysuckle Lane, according to town officials. They run between the Village II Park on the west and Lindsay Road on the east.
The four options the town presented this month were part of 10 developed after the neighbors organized against what they characterized as a town “land grab.” The town agreed in April to look for other options.
However, of the 10 options developed, six were removed after coordinating with SRP because of constraints related to Bureau of Reclamation property within the Western Canal, town officials said.
Resident Kirk Nelson said in an email to Community Impact Newspaper some of the solutions removed were among the best ones for the neighbors, removing the lines from the neighbors’ properties completely. He called the meeting a joke.
“We really do feel that the meeting was a way of them saying, ‘we listened.' We came up with 10 dream plans, but SRP has tied our hands. Now we will do what we wanted to do all along,’” Nelson wrote.
The four options remaining options include:
- Option 1: the town’s original solution: acquire existing easement in fee and relocate walls/fences to north side of easement;
- Option 2: Create a utility corridor “alley” by installing a barrier on north side of the easement, block wall on the south property line and gates on the side property lines;
- Option 3: Acquire land at manhole locations and install block wall around manhole to provide permanent access from the south;
- Option 4: Install gates only at manhole property locations to provide access.
Nelson said that most of the neighbors felt options Nos. 3 and 4 were the least invasive to homeowners.
“But they stated that they would decide what was best for the town,” Nelson said. “We all took that to mean they would do what they had planned all along.”
The re-evaluation of options is now moving into a second phase, according to the town, in which it will further investigate and provide more detailed design and cost estimates of the remaining options.
A summary presentation will be made in April or May.