Residents of this tiny community are upset at the thought of skiers and sightseers riding over their homes in a $13 million gondola the neighboring city of Kellogg plans to start building in May.
"I was pretty unhappy," said John Matthews, 77, after he recently found a surveying stake marked "Tower 16" next to his flower garden.Without consulting their neighbors, Kellogg city leaders decided the best route for the gondola would be through the center of Wardner, a community of about 100 homes in a gulch above Kellogg.
In recent weeks, surveyors have driven stakes in people's yards, and several months ago workers painted a white line to mark the gondola's route over the only through street in Wardner. The gondola will go from a site near Interstate 90 to Silverhorn ski area.
Many of the residents are elderly people who have lived in their homes for decades. They fear they'll lose their privacy when gondola cars start cruising past their windows, or that they'll be forced to sell their homes.
"Wardner is a city of its own, and they can't stomp on us," said Mary Lou Peterson, whose husband is a former mayor.
Kellogg officials have apologized for surveyors traipsing unannounced through Wardner, and residents have been told that no one will be forced to leave his home.
Kellogg is seeking to buy "aerial easements" from property owners in the path of the gondola.
Lowell Hatfield, another property owner, said he's contacted a lawyer to determine whether Kellogg's right of eminent domain extends into Wardner, which would allow the city to purchase properties at fair market value regardless of whether the owner wants to sell.