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January 31, 2013

Landowners report pipeline surveyors to police

By Joe Mahoney
The Daily Star

---- — Residents of three households in Davenport say their private property rights were violated last week when land surveyors for the Constitution Pipeline project traipsed on their land.

Two couples reported what they called trespassing to the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department, while one of their neighbors said he called state police to report the incidents.

In all three cases, the residents said they had put the pipeline company on notice — via certified letters — that they were refusing to grant access to the land surveyors.

Those letters, they said, were sent in response to notifications from the company that their land needed to be surveyed because it was on the proposed pathway for the 121-mile natural gas transmission system.

Alan Daab, a retiree from Long Island who relocated to Davenport with his wife, Colette, 16 years ago, said he sent his letter to the Constitution Pipeline’s Albany office Dec. 4. Last Thursday, he said, he noticed one of the surveyors on his property and confronted him.

“I told the guy about the letter I sent to the company, and he said he wasn’t aware of it,” said Daab, noting he lives on Winn Lane, which is private property.

“They knew they were not supposed to go onto our property — under no circumstances,” said Daab’s wife, Colette.

Said Alan Daab: “I told him this is a private road, and he said, ‘Sorry, I didn’t see a sign,’ — even though there is a sign right there. You can’t go down the road without being on private property.”

Christopher Stockton, spokesman for Constitution Pipeline, said the surveyors had been given permission by another landowner, Waldo Adams, to survey his property and were working on Taylor Road, a public right of way. Taylor Road runs near the Daab property as well as the homes of Steven Connors and Josh Sparkes, who also said a surveyor walked on their properties.

Stockton said the law provides for a licensed surveyor to step onto a property without permission in order to get a marker. He also noted: “I understand that there was snow on the ground that day and a visible delineation may have been difficult.

“It is our strict policy to only survey properties where we have obtained permission from the property owner, and it is our goal to treat all land owners with respect and honor their decision with regard to granting survey permission.”

He said the surveyors will work with Adams — who lives out of state — to figure out a new plan for accessing his property.

Stockton acknowledged the property owners making the complaints own parcels that are along the path that his company is eying as the preferred route for the $750 million project.

Sparkes, 28, of Taylor Road, a security supervisor for a local company, said he reported the alleged trespassing to state police. Connors, a nurse employed at a medical facility in Oneonta, said he and his wife, Jeannette Westcott, reported the alleged trespassing to the Delaware County Sheriff’s Department — as did Alan Daab.

Delaware County Undersheriff Craig DuMond said a deputy who took the complaints determined that no trespassing charge would be brought against the surveyors in question because they left when instructed to do so by the property owners.

Connors, 54, said he and his wife had sent a certified letter to Jim Wallace, a Constitution Pipeline executive, Jan. 14, denying access to his property “under any circumstances.”

The letter concluded: “This pipeline will potentially affect the safety of our family, the integrity of our water, air and subsequently our peace of mind. We will expect full and fair compensation for the price of our property if the pipeline is placed near it. The safety of our property cannot be guaranteed if the pipeline is placed as proposed.”

In an interview, Connors said, “The aspect that bothers me is they probably got the information they wanted when they went on my property.” He said several other neighbors are also outraged by what they view as unauthorized entry to their land by surveyors.

Westcott said: “I told the deputy sheriff we feel bullied and violated by the surveyors coming onto our property. I’m a stay-at-home mom home-schooling my kids. My kids shouldn’t have to deal with this. We have an organic garden and goats. This pipeline is threatening everything we have worked hard for these last six years.”

Said Alan Daab: “I worked all my life to acquire a place like this, so I could relax and look out my window and see the mountains and the woods. This is serenity to me, and I don’t want it messed up by any pipeline. I don’t want their money. And I don’t want them.”