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Thread: Flight 93 Memorial - Shanksville - Sommerset, Pennsylvania

  1. #31


    Land Deal Is Reached for a 9/11 Memorial

    By SEAN D. HAMILL | January 18, 2009

    The National Park Service and an organization representing victims’ families have reached a deal to buy the most critical piece of land needed for the Flight 93 National Memorial in Shanksville, Pa.

    Driven by a goal of getting a deal done before President Bush leaves office on Tuesday, the park service and the organization, Families of Flight 93, reached an accord late Friday with Svonavec Inc., the quarry company that owns the 274-acre parcel at the heart of the site where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed after terrorists took over the plane on Sept. 11, 2001. Forty passengers and crew members were killed.

    Under the agreement, a condemnation suit will be filed in federal court to determine the value of the land, about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, but the park service will take ownership as soon as the case is filed in a few weeks.

    “For us, and I believe for the president and the first lady, it is a sense of closure and a degree of healing to get this done,” said Patrick White, a member of the Families of Flight 93 and a lawyer who helped work out the deal. Mr. White’s cousin Louis J. Nacke II died on Flight 93.

    The park service said the deal would allow construction of the memorial to begin on schedule later this year. The goal is to have the first part of the $56 million initial phase of the memorial completed by 2011. The Svonavec family, the owners of the quarry, agreed with that goal.

    “It didn’t make sense to throw off the gloves and come out swinging and delay the park from opening on the 10th anniversary,” Patrick Svonavec, the company’s lawyer, said Saturday. “We didn’t want to be a holdup to that. That’s not the makeup or the objective of the gentlemen who own the company.”

    The seven-year fight over the land had largely been a war of words involving the Svonavecs, the park service and the Families of Flight 93.

    Tension was heightened last month when the Flight 93 families group sent Mr. Bush a letter asking him to order the Interior Department to use condemnation to force the Svonavecs to sell quickly.

    Patrick Svonavec said the two crucial factors that got the deal done were the threat of condemnation and an appraisal that the family was shown last week. Two previous appraisals were deemed deficient by the park service and were not shown to the Svonavecs.

    An Interior Department spokesman, Chris Paolino, said the appraisal valued the land at $611,000. The park service had previously offered the Svonavec family $250,000, and the families group had offered $750,000.

    Patrick Svonavec said part of the agreement was that his family would also be reimbursed for up to $200,000 in expenses, like lost income from rent of the land and security.

    Another part of the agreement will also immediately allow the park service to have access to the land, even before the condemnation suit is filed, which will allow preconstruction work, like soil sampling and surveying, to take place.

    “It would have been easy for this administration to put this off till Tuesday, when it would become the next administration’s problem,” said Gordon W. Felt, president of the families group, whose brother, Edward, died on Flight 93. “But hopefully we’re all being inspired by the actions of those 40 people on that flight.”


    Agreement clears the way for a Flight 93 memorial

    The landowner's deal raised hopes of getting a tribute in time for the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

    By Dan Nephin | Jan. 18, 2009
    Associated Press

    PITTSBURGH - The owner of the land in Western Pennsylvania where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in the 9/11 terrorist attacks has reached an agreement to sell the parcel, clearing the way for a memorial.
    The National Park Service, Families of Flight 93, and landowner Svonavec Inc. announced the deal Friday for the 274 acres in Shanksville.

    The agreement gives the Park Service access to the land, including the site where the plane crashed, and allows for the planning and construction of the memorial.

    The three also agreed to let a court determine the value of the land. Patrick White, vice president of the Families of Flight 93, and Patrick Svonavec, the attorney for Mike Svonavec, the president and treasurer of the quarry company, characterized the deal as an amicable condemnation.

    "Our concern has always been to protect the lands and have the Park Service own them. That will occur very quickly," White said. "We're one huge step closer to actually having a memorial to dedicate on Sept. 11, 2011."

    Mike Svonavec said he was glad to have a deal.

    "The agreement allows the parties to cooperatively move forward on a methodology by which the evaluation will be determined," he said in a statement.

    Negotiations had been contentious. Families of Flight 93 last month asked the Bush administration to seize the land after negotiations to buy the parcel stalled.

    Mike Svonavec had been accused of refusing to sell for a reasonable amount, but he has repeatedly denied looking for a windfall.

    By agreeing to proceed to court, "what the landowner is saying is, 'You can have title and possession of my property, and we will agree or not when the court makes a decision.' If they don't agree, then they have a right of appeal," White said. "In a sense, what the landowner is saying is, 'We can get a better value in court than any other way.' They may. They may not."

    Under the agreement, Svonavec will donate six acres that encompass the impact site. He has said he did not want any money for that parcel.

    "I feel a sense of relief and accomplishment, a sense of gratitude for those who've participated to get us here," White said. "I'm certain that those feelings will evolve into action that will renew our effort in the days and weeks ahead.

    "We're very optimistic. It's a real watershed day."

    The memorial is to cover more than 2,200 acres, and the families had said ground had to be broken early this year for a memorial to be completed for the 10th anniversary of the crash in 2011.

    Flight 93 was en route from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco when hijackers diverted it. The official 9/11 Commission report said the hijackers had crashed the plane as passengers tried to seize control of the cockpit.

  2. #32


    January 25, 2009

    Price Haggling at a 9/11 Grave Site

    The forest green has long healed in Shanksville, Pa., where Flight 93 crashed as its passengers gave their lives struggling against the hijackers of 9/11. Further healing is at hand with the end of rancorous, shameful delay in creating a memorial to honor the 40 passengers and crew.

    A running fight over land prices threatened the planned opening — on 9/11/11, the flight’s 10th anniversary — of the first and most sacred part of the memorial: the precise site where the plane plunged into the earth. Breaking the deadlock required a personal plea from the victims’ long-suffering families to George W. Bush in his final days as president.

    Congress had already authorized the memorial; the major obstacle was the government’s reluctance to condemn and take possession of the acreage that would form the centerpiece of the memorial. The victims’ families had worked tirelessly on their own to assemble surrounding parcels through donations. Absent an order for eminent domain, however, the National Park Service and the principal landowner were left to engage in unseemly haggling over prices for the core site — an old strip mine sward that is now, de facto, a cemetery.

    Mr. Bush finally agreed that condemnation was the best course and ordered the Department of the Interior to seek a settlement in court. The Park Service agreed to take immediate possession so work can begin on preparing the site in time for the 10th-anniversary opening.

    The Flight 93 families should not have been put through all this; having to wait while the contending parties haggled over price was particularly reprehensible. The families’ resolve to fight through to a solution is a memorial in itself to their lost loved ones’ defense of the nation.

  3. #33


    If I were in that guys position, I probably would have accepted a reasonable offer (and I'm not sure he ever got one), but the second someone threatened me with the possibility of eminent domain, I would have dug my heels in. Deep.

    Is there any reasoning behind the need for 2000 acres? That seems like a whole lot of land for a memorial.

  4. #34


    Quote Originally Posted by BenM View Post
    If I were in that guys position, I probably would have accepted a reasonable offer (and I'm not sure he ever got one), but the second someone threatened me with the possibility of eminent domain, I would have dug my heels in. Deep.

    Is there any reasoning behind the need for 2000 acres? That seems like a whole lot of land for a memorial.
    You have to plan for enough parking.

  5. #35


    Groundbreaking set for Flight 93 memorial
    But fundraising still $20 million short of goal

    Saturday, February 21, 2009
    By Marylynne Pitz, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

    SOMERSET -- Groundbreaking on the Flight 93 National Memorial here has been set for Nov. 7, but $20 million in private donations remains to be raised.

    The first phase of the memorial is slated for completion by Sept. 11, 2011, the 10th anniversary of the terrorist attacks, according to state and federal officials who signed a letter of commitment here yesterday setting the construction schedule.

    The memorial, whose estimated cost is $56 million, will honor what Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell called "the first soldiers in the war against global terrorism."

    On Sept. 11, 2001, 40 passengers aboard Flight 93, en route from Newark, N.J. to San Francisco, learned of attacks on the World Trade Center. The passengers and crew, whose efforts thwarted an attack on Washington, died in an attempt to wrest control of the plane from four hijackers.

    The governor, who attended yesterday's news conference, said an access road to the memorial, built off of Route 30, will cost $9.8 million. Funding will come from the state's capital budget but Pennsylvania also will seek money from the federal land grant trust. Once built, the road will be maintained by the National Park Service.

    U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who also attended yesterday's gathering, said he would meet next week in Washington, D.C. with representatives of Families of Flight 93 who will be there to lobby for federal funding for the project.

    "As Lincoln said, the world will little note, nor long remember what we said here, but no one will ever forget what the passengers on Flight 93 did here," Mr. Specter said.

    The first phase of the project, according to the memorial's Web site, includes construction of the road off of Route 30, a field of honor called the bowl, construction of a road that rings the site, 40 groves, portal walls and a visitors' center.

    Still to be determined is the value of 274 acres of land owned by Svonavec Inc., a stone quarry company in Somerset. This tract includes the six-acre crash site. The company will donate the six acres to the National Park Service, but appraisals are under way to determine the value of the rest of the land that will be part of the memorial site.

    "I think the property will transfer into the National Park Service's hands sometime in the spring of this year," he said.

    Joanne Hanley, superintendent of the Flight 93 National Memorial, praised Patrick G. White, vice president of Families of 93.

    "It is because of this man that we are so far along in the acquisition process," she said yesterday. Mr. White is a lawyer who specializes in land use.

    The commitment letter signed yesterday will be a tangible tool of persuasion that can be shown to prospective donors, Mr. White said.

    C. King Laughlin, who is managing the capital campaign to raise $30 million from private donors, said yesterday that $10 million has been raised. The campaign is being led by former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge and retired Army Gen. Tommy Franks.

  6. #36


    Feds to seize land in order to build 9/11 memorial by 2011

    Government to condemn land for Flight 93 memorial
    US to resort to land condemnation to get property for Flight 93 memorial in Pennsylvania

    AP News
    May 07, 2009 08:57 EST

    The government will begin taking land from seven property owners so that the Flight 93 memorial can be built in time for the 10th anniversary of the 2001 terrorist attacks, the National Park Service said.

    In a statement obtained by The Associated Press, the park service said it had teamed up with a group representing the victims' families to work with landowners since before 2005 to acquire the land.

    "But with few exceptions, these negotiations have been unsuccessful," said the statement.

    Landowners dispute that negotiations have taken place and say they are disappointed at the turn of events.

    The seven property owners own about 500 acres still needed for what will ultimately be a $58 million, 2,200-acre permanent memorial and national park at the crash site near Shanksville, about 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.

    "We always prefer to get that land from a willing seller. And sometimes you can just not come to an agreement on certain things," park service spokesman Phil Sheridan said.

    "Basically, at this point, we have not been able to acquire all the land we need," he said.

    Even with willing sellers, Sheridan said title questions, liens and other claims can arise that would have to be worked out and could delay the project.

    "We had a group of people who took some very heroic actions. It's just fitting and right that we get this done in time for the 10th anniversary," he said.

    The next step will be for the U.S. Justice Department to file a complaint in federal court. A court would have to decide the matter and would set a value on the land.

    Two owners account for about 420 acres the park service plans to condemn, including Svonavec Inc. — which owns 275 acres, including the impact site where 40 passengers and crew died. About 150 acres are owned by a family that operates a scrap yard.

    Most of rest of the land to be condemned are small parcels, two of which include cabins.

    Tony Kordell said the park service visited him late Friday afternoon and made him an offer for his 150 acres. He declined to give the price, but said his attorney requested the appraisal used to determine the value on Monday.

    He's not gotten that appraisal, he said Thursday. On Wednesday, he was told the park service would condemn the land.

    The property Kordell owns includes the scrap yard, which must be relocated and he said cost to move the business also hasn't been determined. The property includes where the visitor center, parking lot and park walkways will be placed, he said.

    "We've been working with (the park service) all along. We've given them rights to come on the property" to do planning, he said.

    "All it's going to do is cost a huge amount of money for attorneys," he said.

    Randall Musser owns about 62 acres that the park service wants to acquire.

    "They apologized about the way it's come together, but what's sad is they had all these years to put this together and they haven't," he said.

    Musser served on the committee that helped establish the park's boundaries and said landowners were promised in 2002 that eminent domain would not be used.

    "It's absolutely a surprise. I'm shocked by it. I'm disappointed by it," said Tim Lambert, who owns nearly 164 acres that his grandfather bought in the 1930s. The park service plans to condemn two parcels totaling about five acres — land, he said, he had always intended to donate for the memorial.

    "To the best of my knowledge and my lawyer, absolutely no negotiations have taken place with the park service where we've sat down and discussed this," Lambert said.

    Lambert said he had mainly dealt with the Families of Flight 93 and said he's provided the group all the information it's asked for, including an appraisal.

    While he knew that condemnation was a possibility, he thought it was an unlikely scenario and that the park service and family group had wanted to acquire the larger parcels before dealing with owners of smaller properties.

    "I was never told that May was the drop-deadline," he said.

    Patrick White, the vice president of Flight 93 Families, welcomed the park service's action and had planned to ask for it at an upcoming meeting with Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar.

    "We appreciate the timely nature of this decision, which will keep us on the timetable for the tenth year dedication of the permanent memorial," he said in a statement.

    Sheriden said condemnation is rarely used. The last time the park service used it, he said, was to acquire a tower at the Gettysburg battlefield in 2000. The tower was demolished to return the battlefield to the way it looked in 1863.

    In February, government officials and representatives of the 33 passengers and seven crew members killed when the plane crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, pledged to dedicate a memorial on the site by the 10th anniversary. Officials said then that more than 80 percent of the needed land had been secured.

    United Flight 93 was traveling from Newark, N.J., to San Francisco when it was diverted by hijackers with the likely goal of crashing it into the White House or Capitol. The official 9/11 Commission report said the hijackers crashed the plane as passengers tried to wrest control of the cockpit.

  7. #37


    Federal government to buy land for Flight 93 memorial
    updated 5:18 p.m. EDT, Mon August 31, 2009
    From Paul Courson
    ) -- Pennsylvania landowners around the September 11, 2001, crash site of Flight 93 have reached an agreement with the federal government allowing construction of a permanent memorial there, the government announced Monday.

    U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the National Park Service has "reached agreements with all the landowners needed" to establish the permanent memorial for the 40 people killed in the terrorist hijacking nearly eight years ago.

    Salazar said the government will pay the landowners approximately $9.5 million.

    One of several airliners hijacked on September 11, 2001, by terrorists who intended to use them as flying bombs, United Airlines Flight 93 went down near Shanksville, in western Pennsylvania.

    Salazar described the negotiations as cordial, with landowners wanting "to walk away saying we've done it for the right reasons."

    A National Park Service Web site says the permanent memorial will honor "the 40 passengers and crew members whose actions thwarted an attack on our nation's capital" as they fought to regain control of the hijacked jetliner. Authorities believe the hijackers meant to crash the plane into either the White House or the Capitol.

    Architects have already sketched out the design, whose features will be situated to take advantage of a natural basin in the terrain.

    A Park Service official expects construction to begin in November.

    The announcement of an agreement with property owners around the crash site will not immediately change the public's ability to visit the location, according to Park Service site supervisor Joanne Hanley.

    "Nobody has access to the crash site," she told CNN, "and although you will be able to see the construction, it will be from the temporary viewing area."

    Soon after the crash in 2001, local volunteers established an overlook from a hillside in cooperation with private property owners and the Park Service, which continues to provide support for visitors.

    Many of those who have come to pay respects have left memorial objects at the temporary site that are then cataloged and stored. Hanley told CNN Monday the Flight 93 National Memorial Collection now holds more than 25,000 objects.

    Lisa Linden, spokeswoman for the Families of Flight 93, issued a statement welcoming the agreement and saying that "we are on track for the dedication of a substantial permanent memorial to the heroes of Flight 93 on the tenth anniversary of the events of 9/11."

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