Lippy broadcasts opposition to condemnation vote

February 02, 1994|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Sun Staff Writer

Concerned that "what is legally right is not always morally right," Commissioner Elmer C. Lippy is taking to the airwaves with his opposition to the county's condemnation of a private parcel in Gamber.

In a Carroll Community television program scheduled to air Friday, Mr. Lippy takes issue with the condemnation a 50-by-15-foot strip of land owned by the High Ridge Association.

"Normally, I tell the audience I take no special position and get both sides of an issue," says the commissioner. "This time, I am happy to say I have a definite stand."

During the interview, Gary Spencer, the High Ridge Association president, asks Mr. Lippy, "Legal mumbo-jumbo and politics aside, what is wrong with this?"

"Everything is wrong with it," Mr. Lippy answers. "You are not only right in your opinion, but I was right in voting as I did."

In a 2-to-1 vote in 1992, the commissioners used their power of condemnation to purchase the property "for the public benefit." The homeowners' group calls the condemnation a concession to development that benefits only Aaron Green, a farmer who wants to develop his 135-acre tract adjacent to High Ridge.

The association took the proposal to Circuit Court. In December, Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. affirmed the county's condemnation power in the case.

The county has until June to establish a fair market value for the property.

"We can accept the offer and go along with the condemnation, or we can appeal," Mr. Spencer said. "Our feeling is that we will appeal."

Mr. Lippy interviewed Mr. Spencer and association member David Bond for a segment of "Your County Commissioners." The program will air three times in the next week on Channel 19.

"I wanted them to explain and reinforce their position," Mr. Lippy said yesterday. "Their cause should be heard."

Mr. Spencer said yesterday that, "Commissioner Lippy says he absolutely agrees with our position and tells why. He takes a stand as protector of private rights on a precedent-setting case."

During the program, Mr. Spencer briefly reviews the background of the case. The association declined Mr. Green's offer to buy the land several years ago.

Mr. Green took his case to the county commissioners, who voted to condemn the land and buy it for county use.

Mr. Bond says increased traffic would have an adverse effect on the neighborhood.

The association has "nothing against Aaron Green's right to develop his property, but the current proposal to extend the development through High Ridge directly degrades our quality of life," Mr. Spencer says.

"The county used our tax dollars to sue us and take away land legally deeded to our association," says Mr. Spencer. "The bottom line is the difference between what is legal and what is right."

During the show, Mr. Lippy says he could not explain his colleagues' action in the light of his protest, the association's "outrage" and pressures from local media.

"When condemnation benefits the majority, we have no hesitation," says Mr. Lippy. "But it is a serious concern, repugnant to me and my colleagues."

Commissioner Donald I. Dell said yesterday that he never favors condemnation "without just cause and just compensation.

"It was justifiable to allow Mr. Green to use High Ridge Drive for a legal right-of-way to his development," said Mr. Dell.

Without use of the association land, the developer would have to build a half-mile street that eventually would be turned over to the county for maintenance, Mr. Dell said.

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