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August 1, 2013

State claim on Highway 80 land irks owners

Public comment on slope project leaves questions unanswered

About 70 town of Otsego residents — most of them clearly angry and concerned — listened to state Department of Transportation officials talk at a public hearing on July 25 at Cooperstown’s Middle/High School about plans for a slope stabilization project on state Route 80.

When they left about an hour later, they had heard a presentation of the state’s plans to replace a retaining wall with a slope, and many had given public comment, but DOT had not answered the question on most everyone’s mind: does the state own a strip of land between state Highway 80 and Otsego Lake where several residents had built or own houses or other improvements?

“I’ve heard many rumors,” said Bernard Enright, 6722 Highway 80. “What I want to know is does the state own from the middle of the road down to the lake?”

Enright’s question drew cheers from the crowd, but no response from DOT officials in attendance. The meeting, said project manager Kathryn Mangan, was to record comments, not to answer questions.

Her statement drew sounds of disgust from the audience.  

“Many of us here own property on the lake,” said Fred Mueller of 6703 State Highway 80. “We have our deeds and we just don’t know what we own and these are questions we need answered.”

The state is making plans to take two lake-front properties north of Five Mile Point, including at least one through an eminent domain claim.

One of the properties, at 6688 Highway 80, called “Acqua Verde” and owned by Joseph Galleti, is on reconditioned land, and will be acquired through eminent domain. It includes a cottage just feet away from the storm damaged wood-timber retaining wall that DOT has determined needs to be torn down and replaced.

The second property, “Camp Be-Lo” at 6690 Highway 80, is owned by Andrew Peterson and is also close to the retaining wall. It was unclear if it too would be paid for by the state through eminent domain.

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