Guilderland residents fear eminent domain

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Standing proudly in front of her home, Carol Hamblin hopes that National Grid will not take her home, through eminent domain, for a proposed power line to bring energy from the north to the New York City area.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

Power lines run alongside Hawes Road in Guilderland, right across the street from residents who are worried the new Energy Superhighway project may cut into their land.

The Enterprise — Michael Koff

High-voltage power lines cross Route 146, with only some room to spare between the towers. National Grid hopes to use this existing right of way for its proposal to bring more power to New York City.

GUILDERLAND — Residents of at least one Guilderland neighborhood are worried their homes may be taken, as a proposal made by the New York Energy Highway Task Force is carried out, “to increase the capacity to move excess power from upstate to downstate.”

The Public Service Commission’s callout for new AC power lines has led to vague early-stage plans being put forth by four different companies competing to be chosen. In the end, only one plan will be implemented.

Unlike the other three power companies who put forth proposals for the energy Superhighway project, National Grid already own the land its lines run on. National Grid currently owns the utility corridor, which decreases the risk of new land being needed to increase the power supply to New York City.

In literature sent to Guilderland residents living near the corridor this past fall, National Grid described the project and announced a forum to be held at the Best Western in Albany.

When Guilderland resident Carol Hamblin received the letter from National Grid, she assumed it was nothing of note.

“We’re used to seeing people come by and do work on the power lines,” Hamblin said. “When I saw the notice that’s what I thought it was going to be.”

Hamblin, her husband, Bob Miller, and other Guilderland residents went to the forum in November where National Grid had different stations set up to provide answers to common questions about the project.

“I am appreciative that they did that,” Hamblin said of the power company communicating with people about their proposal and its possible implications.

One of Hamblin’s neighbors, Jim Schaller, also went to the forum with his wife, Bonnie. At the forum, he said, a National Grid spokesman told them that eminent domain was a last-resort option.

Despite this reassurance, Schaller is still “a little bit” worried about the threat, knowing that the project is in its early stages and could still change.

Hamblin was told something similar by National Grid: “The way they phrased it to us is that the least preferable choice is the taking of land by eminent domain,” she said.

To Guilderland resident Deborah Danz, the threat of eminent domain is immediate.

“My property borders right on the easement,” she said. “I am concerned about eminent domain for myself and my neighbors.”

National Grid spokesman Patrick Stella echoed the reassurances given at the forum. It will be a long while before National Grid knows if eminent domain will have to be used anywhere along the right of way, he said, but the company is very willing to work with residents who would be affected.

“If we can figure out a way to move the project around so they’re happy and we’re happy, we’d do that,” Stella told The Enterprise.

Hamblin has lived in her home since 1977, and still loves it as much now as she did then.

“I knew it was exactly what I wanted, and I still feel that way,” she said.

Hamblin, who retired as director of Guilderland’s public library, grew up near Greenwich, in Washington County, and enjoys the rural atmosphere.

“I love it here, I’ve always loved it here, she said. “No matter what mood I’m in, I enjoy being here.”

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