City Pushes Water Easements

BLYTHEWOOD – In its latest letter to the residents of Rimer Pond Road, the City of Columbia appears to be tightening the screws on the residents to comply with its request for a 20-foot wide easement across their properties that would allow the City to install a 4-foot diameter water main the length of the road.

Trey Sturkie and Hector Garcia, both Right-of-Way agents for the Real Estate Division of the City’s Utilities & Engineering Department, wrote in separate letters that the easement would run through “an area of your property which already has limitations as to what it can be used for.”

Asked about those “limitations,” Sturkie told The Voice via email, “The water main project has been strategically designed to be located within the legal setback on the property where buildings and other improvements are prohibited.”

The front setback for Rural zoned properties in the county is 40 feet. But a former Richland County Planner who asked not to be identified said that the interpretation in the City’s letter may be loose.

“You cannot build a home or structure in that 40-foot setback,” the source said, “but a fence and trees are another matter.”

“If the City were not able to acquire the easement from the residents along the road with its previous $1 offer,” another planning professional told The Voice, “it might decide to ‘take’ the properties, in which case it might be forced to pay the residents a fair market value for their property. The implication in the letter might be that since the area in the setback cannot be used for anything, its value is therefore reduced, thus reducing what the City would pay for the easement.”

While the letter plied the residents with what it called the benefits of public water as opposed to well water, which is the water source for most of the homes along Rimer Pond Road, it concluded, “The City has spent public dollars planning this project and at this time you are requested to cooperate with this public project that will greatly benefit your property.”

The letter informed recipients that they had 10 days from the date of the letter to address any concerns they might have regarding the details of the project. It did not say what the consequences were for not answering in the specified time limit.