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Kenly seeks permission to clean canals, curb flooding

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KENLY — Town officials say they’re willing to clean canals and ditches on homeowners’ property to reduce residential flooding. But first, Kenly needs residents to sign on the dotted line by granting the town maintenance easements.

Town Manager Michael Douglas expressed disappointment when only two of the more than 70 affected property owners attended an Oct. 15 community meeting on the subject at Town Hall.

Douglas said Kenly has canals and ditches running throughout town that are constantly clogged with debris and overgrowth and are in serious need of clearing.

“We want to clean out the canals, but we cannot do that unless we have easements on the property where the canals run,” said Douglas. “An easement is simply a document that permits us to go on your property do work. We cannot do that without having your permission to do so.”

Douglas defined a canal as a ravine that has water flowing through it.

“Our plan is to start work cleaning out the canals in December, but we cannot do that without easements,” said Douglas.“We have over 70 families whose property butts up to the canals in Kenly and we have only two families here tonight.”

Douglas said he thinks residents may be skeptical because they fear easements will allow the town to take over their land.

“We are not trying to take anything out of their property,” said Douglas. “We are only cleaning out the canals. If easements are not given, the result will be continued flooding.”

Douglas said residents would not have to pay for the canal maintenance and workers would exercise care to protect homeowners’ property.

The program requires everyone’s participation to be successful, Douglas said, explaining that flooding would continue if some but not all affected residents agree to the easements.

One attendee asked Douglas if town officials could stop the flooding that frequently occurs in Kenly after heavy rainfall.

“Not at this time, because we do not have the easements that are required to clean out the canals,” he said. “With Kenly, our issue is not just with the flooding — our canals are completely overgrown.”

Douglas said property owners could not be forced to comply with the easements through the concept of eminent domain that applies to the government taking property for public uses, such as building highways. In eminent domain cases, landowners are compensated.

“The land would have to be purchased,” he said, “and the town does not have the funds to do that.”

Douglas said more meetings would be scheduled to address the need for maintenance easements, but due to the low turnout, he’d try to determine a better system of notifying affected residents.

Information about the community meeting was posted on the town of Kenly website and town newsletter.

“It looks like the best method might be by knocking on doors,” Douglas said.

Douglas closed the meeting with a message to all Kenly residents regarding the easements.

“I implore our residents that live along canals to grant the town an easement so we can keep the canals clean and free fr om tree roots and debris,” said Douglas. “Without these easements, there is no way our town personnel can prevent flooding within Kenly.”