Letter to the Editor: Consider the Undisclosed Damages in Eminent Domain Action

~ Submitted by David Radlo

Two years ago, the town in attempt to pave sidewalks did approximately $5 to 10K worth of damage on my property. Thereafter, a member of the town’s senior leadership lobbied me to vote yes on removing 4 football fields+ of trees and paving a 22-foot bike extension said “It’s so much money David (referring to the $11M State Money as part of the project), we have to take it the way the State wants it” that unfortunately destroys values of personal property and business as well as nature for a paved bike-path extension. Abutting Land-Owners and businesses have testified publicly and/or written about $millions$ in projected damages starting immediately after passage stemming from land taken from homeowners from Railroad Ave to past the Pre-school on Rte. 62. In a public forum, Town Council recommended to landowners to seek lawyers on the town’s extraordinarily puzzlingly Eminent Domain offer (and free 4-year land borrowing). Many residents realized as a Professional Real Estate Expert and owner testified publicly that upon passage many overall total values will be changed overnight down to “fire-sale prices” due to the vast land and important locations taken, tree removal, paving, and projected noise, pain, and construction damages. 

Would you like to own a home where trees are eliminated and a paved 22 Foot public Bike Freeway is being constructed in your front yard or back, parking lot and/or driveway? How much would you pay for it? In addition, the borrowed land portion is free for years, will be returned in whatever condition the town and state choose perhaps similar to my property with the sidewalks. Businesses have noted the heavy likely damages not only to property but liabilities due to business loss, increased operational costs, and potential harmful occupational safety (OSHA) effects on employees, and dangerous effects to children. And what is the town’s reserve on millions in Projected Community Damages? 

Visit and see the Forest instead of Chopping down Green Trees for “Free Money.” Vote “No” on Eminent Domain Article 10 November 14/15. 

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October 21, 2022 7:24 pm

While Mr. Radlo is entitled to whatever feelings about the Town and his property he wants to share, I have to object to the idea that this project will kill real estate values along the trail. I have looked at property records along the Minuteman Bikeway in Lexington and Arlington (via Zillow) and this assertion isn’t borne out. Not even close.

Along Cottage St in Lexington, for example, the least-expensive property is valued at over $600k. Tax records going back to 1999 show that it was valued around $200k then, which is 2 years after the Minuteman opened. All along the Minuteman, property valuations currently average around $800k, with tax assessed values ranging from 2.5 to 4 times as much as in 1999.

Construction is disruptive, and I’m sure selling a house in the middle of it is not ideal. On the other hand, each section of construction along this path is projected to take 2-4 months. It’s plausible that a home for sale with construction outside it might have its value slightly depressed during those 2-4 months. However, claiming that the completed path will permanently depress prices or that any homes will drop to “fire sale” prices is unnecessarily alarmist.

Nancy Wolk
October 20, 2022 9:39 pm

The main issue is simple: do we want to pay for future lawsuits when a property owner infringes on the RBT? We can say nobody will, but now that we understand that the path has sections that are privately owned, it’s the town’s duty to acquire these lands.

Any single property owner could block the trail, or build on their property that they didn’t even know they owned. The town would win any lawsuit against the property owners, but that money to fight these would come out of funds that are raised by our taxes.

Time moves forward and things change. But the fundamental question is that the town needs to own public space. Period.

Dan Archibald
October 20, 2022 7:09 pm

A) Yes.
B) Where does 22 feet come from?! The dishonest mailer littered all over my neighborhood says 18… surely the authors would have chosen the most exaggerated number for their argument, so how do you explain the discrepancy?

Craig Jackson
October 21, 2022 11:57 am
Reply to  Dan Archibald

The 22 foot width is calculated from 12′ paved plus 2 x 3′ stone dust paths/shoulders + 2 x 2′ actual shoulder for safety, either for the railing or other margins. The stone dust is actually a path, not a shoulder.

The stone dust paths could probably be eliminated without great changes to the design, but they were added to make the overall trail more friendly to runners.

October 21, 2022 2:26 pm
Reply to  Dan Archibald

The width of the path itself will be 18 feet (12 of asphalt, 6 of stonedust). The 22 figure comes from the additional land that will be cleared for construction easements, etc. Trees will not come up to the edge of the stonedust, there will be an additional buffer.

Elliot Lovy
October 21, 2022 2:33 pm
Reply to  Dan Archibald

B) 22′ clearing for the 18′ wide road. It’s in the plans.

A) I take the phrasing of the question to mean do you want to own a home where this is happening, not where this has happened.
Unless you are an abutter, your perspective is speculative.
Here is a more concrete perspective.

I’ve lived in Beford for 16 years. Right off Route 62, which has its downsides.
But, though my front windows faced Concord Road, my back windows looked out at a grove of trees, abutting protected wetland and wildlife preserves.
I knew, just on the other side of those trees, was a beautiful trail.
A trail used by me and my family multiple times daily, treasured and loved.
Absolutely the best part of Bedford for us, and we frequently, honestly, and earnestly talk about how fortunate we are.

Now, this project will be knocking down that grove of trees.
Both my front and back windows will look out on roads.
In my backyard, I’ll have a beautiful view of a parking lot.

Now, maybe the answer is still “Yes” for you.
You would choose to replace the most beautiful thing you can see from your house with a parking lot or an 18′ wide paved path.
But, it’s “No” for me.

I can imagine how easy it is to vote for somebody else to sacrifice something they love and cherish for something you think is more valuable.
But I think we can do better.

I sincerely hope you are never put in the position where the town gets to vote on whether or not they will take something away that has enriched your life, and the lives of you family for 16 years.
And, the perspective of anyone being asked to sacrifice is summarily dismissed as NIMBY.
And, the very act of trying to communicate the magnitude of the cost (what the town is losing) to better inform the cost/benefit analysis, gets you pretty near demonized.

Dan Archibald
October 27, 2022 5:16 pm
Reply to  Elliot Lovy

You are literally saying “not in my backyard” so yes, it’s NIMBY. I just had all the trees behind my house cut down so a speculator could tear down the house that’s stood there for at least 70 years and build a bigger one. I got no say on that, and it doesn’t benefit the public in any way. I wish it were a bike path going in there, or a playground, or anything else that would make the town a better place. A paved path will make the town a better place.

Elliot Lovy
October 30, 2022 3:18 pm
Reply to  Dan Archibald

No, that is not what NIMBY means in any context outside of proponents for this project when dismissing other perspectives.
NIMBY means you agree we need to do something, but don’t want it done in your backyard. If the town was thinking about adding a municipal airport, does that mean any noise pollution argument against it by any citizen of Bedford is inherently invalid because it’s just NIMBY?

I am sorry to hear about your loss of tree coverage. To connect this analogy, imagine that it was put up for a vote by the town (like, should we allow two story whatevers near a whatever), and your perspective is the only one that is dismissed because the project in question happened to be in your backyard.

Regardless, my response was not my argument against the project. You provided your perspective on the letter’s question, I was providing mine. This perspective, though much maligned and demonized, is not very well understood. I don’t have space here to fully motivate it, but accept for the sake of argument that a reasonable person could look at this project not as a paving or an improvement, but as a complete destruction of what it was, and a replacement with something else.

Many in this town will be basing their vote on the good this project will do for the community. Ideally, citizens should also understand the cost of this project, what Bedford is losing.
Now, it is not surprising that there is strong overlap between those who use the trail, those who live near it, and those who understand what is being lost. Perhaps that is there where the NIMBY confusion comes in. 

I would encourage voters who have only heard the arguments for the proposal, or have a picture of the MInuteMan bikeway in their head, or are just voting with the recommendations of the town government, to make sure they get a full understanding of what Bedford is losing. In the absence of a balanced understanding, it seems safer to vote No. This will come up every 6 months until it passes, and the money from the state has dried up for the year. So, no rush to get this passed…

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