The planned extension of the trail will pass through more than 280 Anniston properties, some of which are owned by the city and county governments, according to Ed Isom, the attorney hired by the city last year to conduct a property search.
Isom said he has completed the task and is ready to deliver his report to the city when officials give him the go-ahead. The city approved the $20,000 study last September.
“We’re holding our position and just waiting on our instructions to move further,” Isom said. “I’m ready to move whenever I’m told to move.”
City Planner Toby Bennington said part of the holdup is “discussions that are going on with some property owners we know of.”
Bennington declined to say with whom the city was in negotiations or which areas of the planned trail extension were involved in these talks.
In March, consultants completed a technical feasibility study that identified the route of the 7-mile trail extension, planned to run down the western side of downtown from Mike Tucker Park, linking to the downtown district at 12th Street and ending at the multi-modal transportation station. Plans also include connections to downtown bike routes, a Coldwater Mountain trailhead park, and a western spur that would run along a second rail line parallel to the main path.
Bennington did say that the city might be dealing with an entity other than the railroad who owns an easement involved in the expansion.
“We’re very pleased, and we’ll be ready to know who we need to communicate with and start that process,” he said.
City Manager Don Hoyt said the process could involve “long and arduous negotiations.”
“First you’ve got to know who, where they are, how to contact them,” Hoyt said of the property owners. “And basically, we’ll be telling them, ‘You’ve acquired a piece of property, and we want you to give it to the city.’ You can imagine all the different kinds of answers we can get.”
Hoyt said the city could likely request a quitclaim deed from property owners along the route but noted that city officials hadn’t really discussed how to proceed beyond such an initial request.
“There’s a lot of things the city could do: buy it from them, put a sign up in their name,” he said. “We haven’t really worked out the details on that.”
Hoyt said it’s possible that if all else fails, the city could use its power of eminent domain to take property regardless of an owner’s wishes, providing payment in exchange, but the city would like to avoid such a move.
“It’s time-consuming and costly,” he said.
Bennington said that in the meantime, the city is working to identify more specific features along the planned route to prepare for the preliminary engineering phase of the project. He said this includes evaluating topography and infrastructure along the easement, as well as identifying potential locations for features such as lighting and additional buffering along the route.
Staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.