New Albany could pursue eminent domain to build a leisure trail on Harlem Road, according to City Manager Joe Stefanov.
City leaders want to build a trail connection on Harlem between Greensward and Dublin-Granville roads, Stefanov said. The gap is about a quarter mile, with costs of about $175,000, including necessary easements, he said.
With the necessary easements, the city would construct a walking and biking trail on the west side of Harlem about 5 or 6 feet in width, with a grass area separating the road and the trail, Stefanov said.
But he also said he has worked with residents for about 15 years to determine whether a trail was desired on Harlem Road and on which side of the road the trail would be.
"The problem has not been a lack of desire on the part of the city to build a trail," Stefanov said.
Instead, he said, some property owners are unwilling to grant easements to the city.
Because Harlem is an older road, the city's right of way is narrower than that of a typical New Albany subdivision, he said.
Stefanov said about 60 percent of property owners with land on the site of the proposed trail either have committed easements or said they'd be agreeable to providing easements.
About 40 percent of property owners have either been unresponsive or said no, he said.
As a result, Stefanov said, the city will work with an appraiser, and within 90 days will reach out to property owners and offer an appraised amount for the land.
If the city is unable to obtain the remaining easements, city officials would take legislation to council to begin eminent-domain proceedings, he said.
Stefanov said the city has used eminent domain once since he has served as city manager and that was to address safety issues with the intersection of U.S. Route 62 and Central College Road. Stefanov became city manager in 2000 and the project he referenced was in 2010, according to city spokesman Scott McAfee.
If the city doesn't get easements, another option would be to build a trail with a guard rail between it and the road, Stefanov said, describing that solution as less aesthetically pleasing and also less pedestrian friendly.
A third option would be adding a sidewalk behind a curb, he said.
Given the length of the road and the volume of traffic, "I think it would be beneficial to construct the trail," Stefanov said.
A hill on the road near the intersection of Harlem and Greensward also creates sight issues for drivers, he said.
Some Harlem Road residents share Stefanov's concerns.
Steve Maple, who lives on Harlem with his wife, Jen, and 11-year-old son, Tommy, said he saw a young driver flip his car onto its top on the street the previous summer.
Maple said he is not as worried about those who drive fast as those who are distracted drivers.
Because New Albany is a walking community, adding a trail makes sense and the addition wouldn't be an eyesore, Maple said.
Like Maple, Harlem Road resident JoAnne Weisser said cars tend to drive more quickly along the road, and walking alongside the road can feel dangerous.
Weisser has lived there for 11 years with her husband, Mark, and sons Andrew, 20, and AJ, 16.
A trail would help residents feel connected to the rest of the community, Weisser said, and many people already use the road for walking or biking to access other sections of the trail.
"I just think it would be nice for the entire community," she said.
Unlike Maple and Weisser, who said they don't live on the side of the road where the trail is to be built, Matt Morgan does. He said he provided an easement for the front of his yard and the front of an adjacent lot that he also owns.
Morgan said he has lived on Harlem Road for just over two years with his wife, Caryn, and children Sophie, 16, Claire, 13, and Jack, 10.
The community has grown in such a manner that the trail is "a necessity at this point," Morgan said, or else something tragic could happen.