Stark County couple feels 'bullied' by Dominion East Ohio Gas over driveway dispute

Posted at 4:58 PM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-01 17:13:40-05

A Stark County couples feels like they're being "bullied" by Dominion East Ohio after receiving a letter that ordered them to remove the driveway that has been on the property for more than 50 years.

"I want them to treat me like a human being. Don't come here and bully us," said Robert Merchant who lives on Manchester Road In Lawrence Township near Canal Fulton.

Robert and his wife, Debbie, have lived at the home for 36 years. A gravel driveway that measures 305-feet long was there before they moved in.

But last week, the couple became furious after receiving a letter from Richard Cline, an attorney representing Dominion.

"It appears you have built a gravel drive over DEO's storage line on the property," Cline wrote. "That gravel is an impermissible encroachment and must be removed."

Dominion has informed the couple that work needs to be conducted on the pipeline on the property, but the order to remove the drive seems unreasonable to the Merchants.

"The fact is I don't feel it's our responsibility to move it. We didn't put it there and they should have checked it before, sometime in the 36 years," Debbie said.

Robert was also incensed because the gas company hasn't offered to pay a dime to remove the driveway, which is made out of limestone.

He requested estimates and found the cost to move it could be up to $10,000.

"I can't afford to do it," he said.

Mr. Merchant, who had two heart surgeries last August, is also concerned that it would be harder for rescue crews to get to his home in an emergency if his driveway disappeared.

"I'm a 63-year-old guy with a bad heart."

Before the driveway letter, Robert was already irritated after a subcontractor for Dominion cut down 15 of his trees in advance of a plan to replace gas pipelines in July.

According to Robert, the subcontractor agreed to chop the wood into 8 to 10-foot long logs, but instead left behind a mess with much larger sections of the trees.

"They're belittling us, telling us they're gonna come on our property and do whatever they want and there's not a damn thing that we can do about it."

Tracy Oliver, a spokesperson for Dominion, said the company will continue to work with the property owner with the support of legal counsel.

"The company reserves the right to work on our pipeline and other facilities on the property, under the terms of our easement agreements," Oliver wrote.