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City OKs condemnation for Halfway Tree sewer line

A developer got help to move ahead with construction of a sewer line to serve a mobile home park with failing septic tanks when the Hendersonville City Council authorized a condemnation action to secure a land easement on Thursday.

Developer Tim Manson, of Spartanburg, S.C., has a tentative agreement to buy the Halfway Tree Mobile Home Park on Rutledge Road in unincorporated Henderson County between Hendersonville and Flat Rock. The current landowner, Florida-based Upchurch Marinas, settled a state water quality enforcement action last year by agreeing to connect the park's homes to Hendersonville's sewer system.

Residents of Hood Heights had expressed concern about the sewer line going through their subdivision, fearing it would be disruptive. After a meeting in January with the residents, engineers looked for an alternative route. They were able to find a path that would be “much less intrusive than the first route we showed,” Manson said. “We knew it was going to be a construction challenge from the beginning. We realized this was going to be a logistical nightmare and there was a good way to make it happen and come out of it like we’re friends.”
The new route goes through fewer private property parcels “and not right down the middle of a narrow corridor like Hood Heights,” he said.
City Attorney Sam Fritschner told the council on Thursday night that lawyers had been unable to ascertain the ownership of the roadway the sewer line would cross. A records search turned up an owner going back to the 1800s and another in the 1940s but no clear record of the current owner. To acquire the property, the city attorney said, the city would need to file an eminent domain lawsuit against “unknown owners,” then put money in a trust account held by the Clerk of Court in the event someone comes forward with proof of ownership. Attorney Sharon Alexander would serve as guardian for the unknown owners if a judge approved.
“We’re not taking ownership of the property,” Fritschner said. “It would simply be an easement for the future sewer line. We are currently in productive conversation” with other landowners that would need to grant easements. 
Manson said he thought a contractor could move forward on its original timeline of digging by spring.
“We may have lost a couple of weeks but we’ll have something on the ground in April,” he said.