By Patrick Crowley
Enquirer staff writer
FORT WRIGHT - Plans to build a $50 million sewage treatment plant along the Ohio River in western Boone County have cleared a major legal obstacle in Frankfort. A legal maneuver by the state's highest court does not clear the way for Sanitation District No. 1 of Northern Kentucky to build the new plant, but it moves the process closer to completion.
The Kentucky Supreme Court has refused to hear a lawsuit filed against the district by Don Stites, who owns the farm where the plant is planned to be built. The district had tried to buy the property, but Stites refused. So eminent domain was used to take control of the property, said sanitation district general manager Jeff Eger.
Stites filed suit against the district to try to hold onto his property, but Boone County Circuit Court and the Kentucky Court of Appeals ruled in the district's favor. The Supreme Court's refusal to hear the case gives the district ownership of the property.
"It's great news for us," Eger said. "We own the property ... and he gets his money."
The land has been appraised at about $1,800 an acre. Stites would receive about $270,000 for the property, Eger said.
The district is anxious to get on the land to perform archeological, environmental and geotechnical testing, Eger said. That work should take about a year and construction could begin after that, he said. But Stites can continue the legal case by contesting the amount of money offered for his farm, which is near Petersburg. "I'm sure he will," Eger said.
Stites has not yet decided his next move, said his lawyer, Todd McMurtry of Crestview Hills.
"My client is aware of the decision of the Kentucky Supreme Court and is obviously disappointed," McMurtry said. "At this point we're evaluating any other options available to him to prevent the taking of his land."
Boone County Judge-executive Gary Moore welcomed the news and said the plant is needed to help handle Boone County's rapid growth in an environmentally sound way. "As we grow, we must do so responsibly by protecting our environment," Moore said. "Building the Western Regional Treatment Plant is critical to doing that."
Boone County's population has grown from 57,000 to 102,000 since 1990 and another 75,000 new residents are expected to move in over the next 25 years.
Residents living near the rural site fear the plant will damage the natural setting of the area and invite too much growth to western Boone County.
"The residents living in the vicinity of the plant have my commitment that the plant will be developed and built in a responsible way with state of the art technology," Moore said. "We view every inch of Boone County as valuable and we will make sure this is done right."
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