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Village faces easement suit

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After an executive session following its Oct. 5 meeting, Village Council passed a resolution of intent to appropriate an easement from a Township resident who is suing the Village over a disputed easement on his property adjacent to Village limits.

The suit was filed several weeks ago by developer Kenneth Struewing, according to Village Solicitor John Chambers in an interview this week. Struewing did not respond to an interview request.

“We were hoping to avoid the litigation that we’re now ensnared in,” Chambers said. “We hope we can resolve this amicably, but we felt we had to take this step given that a lawsuit was filed.”

The suit concerns Struewing’s desire to hold onto a disputed easement on his 40-acre Hyde Road property, which was the previous home of late longtime Village manager Howard Kahoe and his wife, Margaret. Last spring Struewing approached Council with the request that he be allowed to tap into a Village water line that runs through his property, which abuts the Village but is outside Village limits. Council denied the request because Village policy is that out-of-town properties only have access to Village utilities if a clear environmental problem exists, and there is no such problem on the Struewing property.

Following the denial of the request, Struewing presented Council with a grant of easement issued by Kahoe shortly before his 1974 retirement. That easement, which the Village resolution describes as “extraordinarily favorable” to the Kahoes, allegedly gave the Village the right to run water and sewer lines through the property. However, according to Chambers, there is no record that the Village government, which needed to approve the easement acquisition, was ever aware that the action took place. Therefore, the Village considers the Kahoe grant of easement to be invalid.

In its Oct. 5 resolution, the Village stated that it seeks to purchase the disputed easement from Struewing at an agreed-upon price and then obtain a new easement for Village utility lines.

The resolution is the “first step” in the process of doing so, according to Chambers, who stated that the Village will attempt to negotiate a mutually agreeable price, but if that does not happen, “We will use eminent domain to obtain the easement because the Village has to have an easement for that property.”

The resolution authorizes Chambers and Village Manager Mark Cundiff to continue negotiations, including mediation, in an attempt to reach an agreement with Struewing, although it states that negotiations have been unsuccessful so far.

In other Village business:

In other business following the executive session, Council approved a resolution to terminate its lease with Gary Stutzman for the Village-owned property that has been the site for Stutzman’s Nursery and Garden Center on Route 68.

The Village had earlier this year stated its interest in ending the lease following many months of nonpayment of rent and insurance. However, in response to an effort by Stutzman and several community members to keep the longtime business afloat, Council had indicated its willingness to give the business time to resolve its problems.

However, continued nonpayment has made the lease termination necessary, according to Chambers.

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