Battle over Eagle path continues in court, on ground

While fighting a land seizure suit, the Laguna Pointe homeowners carve out a second path

kmoeller@idahostatesman.comMay 19, 2014 

The city of Eagle filed an eminent domain claim in April to force Laguna Pointe property owners to sell easements for a public path that connects to the Boise River Greenbelt on the south side of the south channel - but homeowners aren't waving a white flag.

Laguna Pointe is on the offensive, and not just with its lawyers.

The homeowners association has hired public relations firm Strategies 360 and spent about $4,000 to clear a new path for bicyclists, walkers and others along the river. Laguna Pointe is a high-end subdivision east of Eagle Road and south of State Street.

"The Laguna Pointe homeowners felt, and feel, they were being painted as the bad guys and wanted people to hear both sides of the story," said Phil Hardy of Strategies 360.

A public path was part of the original development agreement for Laguna Pointe, which received final city approval in 2006.

For unknown reasons, the grant of easement was not properly recorded with the county. Months of negotiations on path uses and location - homeowners said the existing path was outside the easements - ended last month, when the city opted to use seizure laws to take control of the land where the pathway lies and settle the matter.

Rather than wait for things to play out in court, the HOA created a new path. The homeowners want the city to suspend its eminent domain action and work toward an agreement on the new path, Hardy said.

The Laguna Pointe group notified the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers of its intent to clear a new path on April 6, and the association was told that the plan fell within its existing permit, Hardy said.

But work done in the flood plain also requires a city permit, Eagle City Attorney Susan Buxton said.

City officials were unaware that the homeowners were creating a parallel path, Buxton said Friday.

"I had to find out by rumor," Buxton said. "I called their lawyer and said, 'What's going on?' "

The path - much wider and closer to the river than the first path - is farther away from Laguna Pointe homes. Like the original path, it does not have a bridge or culvert to carry users over an overflow channel.

At least one Eagle official likes the location.

"I think it's a great place for the path," said Eagle City Councilwoman Mary McFarland, who checked it out last week. "It's shady, and it's closer to the river."

She said that every time she reads about bicyclists colliding with cars on Treasure Valley streets, it adds to her sense of urgency for finding a resolution on the path, which would connect the Eagle Road area to the paths east in Garden City and Boise.

"I'm not here for a big ol' fight, I'm just here for a Greenbelt path," McFarland said. "We've been waiting and waiting and waiting."

One of the reasons Eagle officials didn't want to move the public path closer to the river was concerns about affecting wetlands.

Buxton said she hasn't received anything in writing about the new path.

"Make me an offer. My clients are reasonable," Buxton said. "If they have a proposal they want me to take to my client, I am all ears."

The Laguna Pointe association had 20 days to answer Eagle's eminent domain claim. It responded and demanded a jury trial.

A conference call between the judge and lawyers will be held June 16 to discuss the status of the case. They'll talk about pretrial matters and set a trial date.

Katy Moeller: 377-6413

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