With a marginal majority, the Christiana Council voted to take ownership of a private roadway, Creamery Lane, at its meeting Tuesday night.
The roadway, which runs behind the former bank building off of Bridge Street, is in need of repair and the only way the borough could legally step in to make the repairs is if they take possession of it.
"We can't spend taxpayer money on a private roadway," borough Manager Bud Rettew has said.
Council President Robin Coffroth brought up the issue of Creamery Lane a few months ago, saying that he for one was tired of dodging potholes when he drives on the road. The council at that time directed Rettew to review what could be done with the borough's solicitor. Since they were relatively sure the three property owners who live on Creamery Lane wouldn't agree to turn over the roadway to the borough, eminent domain had been mentioned as a possibility.
At the council's meeting Tuesday night, Rettew said if the council wished to take the roadway by eminent domain it needed to act sooner rather than later because of new eminent domain guidelines that are expected to be passed by the state legislature. The new guidelines would prohibit a government entity from taking private property for the purpose of enterprise (a la Coatesville), but also states a municipality can only take private property if it's a safety hazard or taxes are owed on the property. Rettew said that according to an article in the Lancaster newspapers, the guidelines have been approved by both houses and are now just waiting to be signed into law by Gov. Rendell.
Coffroth asked for a motion and, after no one made one, said, "I guess I'm the only one who feels we should do something."
That's when councilors Ginny Blair and Harold Swarr spoke up; Blair made the motion, Swarr seconded it. Coffroth asked for a poll vote after Councilor Walt Crellin indicated he'd abstain from voting. With only five councilors present, the vote was three to two: Coffroth, Blair and Swarr voted in favor while councilors Crellin and Glenn Kendig abstained.
In response to questions from a resident in the audience, Rettew said that one of the property owners along Creamery Lane has said he would fight any eminent domain action, but they don't know if that will be the case.
Rettew also said he couldn't see any court prohibiting it since all the council wants to do is repair the road.