Vital files motion to halt TVA access to land

By TIM SINIARD
Posted 12/8/18

Attorneys representing Meigs County landowner Greg Vital filed a motion against the Tennessee Valley Authority late Friday to set aside the court’s order giving TVA immediate access …

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Vital files motion to halt TVA access to land

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Attorneys representing Meigs County landowner Greg Vital filed a motion against the Tennessee Valley Authority late Friday to set aside the court’s order giving TVA immediate access to enter his property for a planned line transmission project, the Cleveland Daily Banner has learned.
The motion was filed with the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
The TVA filed a lawsuit against Vital, as well as other area property owners last month with the same court, which later ruled in favor of the agency.
The defendants in that case were Greg A. Vital, John and Bridget Vantiegham and Cornerstone Farm.
In addition to the line project, TVA is planning to construct a $300 million, 185,000-square-foot systems control facility, which will be located on 167 acres near Georgetown and Gunstocker Creek. It is expected to be completed and running by 2023. About 175 employees will be transferred from the current 20-year-old facility, located underground in the TVA complex in downtown Chattanooga.
TVA's $26 million new line would begin at its Sequoyah Nuclear plant and extend northwest about 5.25 miles to the proposed Gunstocker Creek station, which will be located at the intersections of Highways 58 and 60 in Meigs County. The line will also run through portions of Bradley and Hamilton counties, connecting to the planned systems’ control facility.
About 4.25 miles of existing line will be torn down and replaced with double-circuit poles.
The transmission line project is projected to be completed by 2021.
Chattanooga attorneys Roger W. Dickson, C. Crews Townsend and M. Heith Frost filed the suit, asking for the order to be set aside and requesting the TVA to:
“File specific documents to establish a temporary right to enter Mr. Vital’s land, rather than divest him entirely of possession of his property for an indeterminate time and scope;
“Define the activities the TVA may perform on the property and the times they may perform these activities;”
“Define the property rights Vital retains during what TVA calls a ‘temporary taking’;
“Alternatively, the defendant’s motion asks the court set aside the order due to the TVA’s failure to estimate and deposit just compensation for the actual taking.”
According to the motion, Vital’s attorneys state TVA went to court for the order of possession “before Mr. Vital entered the case and had an opportunity to respond, and they are vague, overbroad, and the order seems to grant the TVA a property right that is more than what the TVA is presently entitled to and is worth more than the $1” filed with the Clerk of Court.
According to the filing, the attorneys contend that “it is axiomatic that such a temporary taking should have a defined scope” and that “the TVA sought a taking of Mr. Vital’s entire 72-acre property and did not specifically define the activities it would conduct on the property or the times during which it would conduct them.”
The attorneys argue the TVA’s $1 deposit is not just compensation, stating the agency’s motion is “an actual taking that is far more expansive than simply the right to enter onto private land to perform surveying activities.”
Vital is president and CEO of Morning Pointe Senior Living and Independent Healthcare Properties in Ooltewah. His property is the location of Vital Buffalo Farm.
A Facebook group titled “Stop Destroying Tennessee Farms” was started in opposition to TVA’s project, which is allegedly code named “Project Viper.”
A press release by Vital contains a timeline regarding the TVA project:
        On Aug. 20, TVA announced publicly its plans for a major transmission line upgrade from Hopewell to Georgetown needed to power a “new secure office complex.” The $26 million plan included cutting a new, mile-long right of way through private property. There was no explanation of what the “secure office complex” was. It was the last time TVA communicated with Georgetown citizens, according to Vital.
        On Aug. 27, local media reported for the first time that TVA was moving its power control center and 175 employees out of downtown Chattanooga in what was a $300 million project.
        On Aug. 30, TVA held a public meeting in Georgetown and more than 150 people attended when TVA officials said the agency expected no more than 30.
        In September, TVA’s filed a permit with the Tennessee Department of Environment & Conservation to build a self-contained sewer plant on the site. The permit revealed that TVA had named initiative Project Viper and that the agency had been working on the project for two years.
        Vital met with TVA officials twice to discuss the routes of the transmission line and access to the property without any substantive concessions from TVA.
        On Nov. 20, TVA filed lawsuits against four property owners in four different Tennessee jurisdictions.
        On Nov. 30, TVA requested and was granted immediate access to the property.
 
Vital told the Banner Saturday the “TVA continues to trample the rights of individual property owners in Georgetown to its advantage.
“TVA has chosen to buy some properties and condemn others,” Vital said, “They are also abusing their power of eminent domain.”

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