City to use eminent domain for easements along highway

The City of Moab is beginning eminent domain proceedings against Moab Lodging LLC, the owner of the Holiday Inn Express & Suites shown here, and a couple who owns nearby property. The easements it hopes to obtain will follow Highway 191 within the property’s setbacks and will be used for new underground sewer conveyance lines. Photo by Carter Pape

The Moab City Council recently voted unanimously on measures to begin eminent domain proceedings to secure rights-of-way at two different locations in conjunction with the city’s wastewater improvement project, construction of which is set to begin in the near future.

The vote Aug. 27 followed eight months of attempts by the city to reach a deal with Lewie and Jennifer Pilles who own 1263 N. Main St., and Moab Lodging LLC which owns 1515 N. Main St., to secure easements on their properties where the city plans to install buried sewer mains. City staff had successfully negotiated the purchase of similar easements on adjacent properties but did not reach such agreements with the Pilleses nor Moab Lodging.

The city will now pay, as constitutionally required, “just compensation,” to the property owners for the takings. Appraisals of the properties showed their combined value to be roughly $95,000.

The Pilleses, who live in Arizona, had originally requested that the city change the location of the easement within the property since a portion of the property lies in a flood plain and is not buildable.

According to City Engineer Chuck Williams, a change to the easement’s location would not have been technically feasible. City Manager Joel Linares said that the easement was within a property setback required by city ordinance and was not developable by the property owners anyway.

City Attorney Chris McAnanay’s attempts to negotiate with Moab Lodging were less fruitful. James Koehler, the principal of Moab Lodging, “expressed general dissatisfaction” with the city, according to McAnanay, “and to date has been unwilling to grant the necessary easements.”

Despite invitations to attend the meeting, which the city is required by state law to deliver to the property owners facing eminent domain proceedings, neither was present at the Tuesday council meeting.