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Harrison County Commission rejects road vacancy petition

ROAD DISCUSSION — The Harrison County commissioners listen as argument are made about a proposal to vacate a portion of Rowland Road. (Photo by Carri Graham)

CADIZ — After hearing public comment, the Harrison County Board of Commissioners decided Wednesday to reject a road vacancy petition presented by a Nottingham Township business.

On June 29 Elk Run Reserve LLC filed a petition with commissioners asking the county to vacate more than 4,000 feet of Rowland Road, between Elk Run Road and Kennedy Ridge Road.

Elk Run Reserve was denied a vacancy for the roadway in 2010 by a different board of commissioners.

Numerous township residents attended the public hearing regarding the matter, with some speaking in favor of vacating the road while others were against the petition.

Attorney Ben Fraifogl spoke in favor of the vacancy on behalf of his client, Elk Run Reserve LLC, the current owner of the property where the section of road is located.

“The primary concern is that it (the road) is highly impassable, can’t be used and we believe constitutes an attractive nuisance, meaning that there is no way for us really to legally, if the road does exist, put a gate or fencing up to prevent people from getting onto the road and eventually dead ending road,” he said.

“It’s not clear that a road actually existed.”

Fraifogl said the roadway has not been passable in more than 20 years.

“We really don’t believe that this portion of the road that is impassable, and continues to be impassable, is a road,” he said. “We really don’t feel this road benefits anyone in its current state.”

Nottingham Township trustees then voiced their concerns regarding the vacancy. Trustee John Jones spoke against the potential vacancy, stating that the roadway will remain impassable as long as the homeowner is able to put up gates blocking the road.

“I think we’re setting a precedent by any landowner in Harrison County who owns the property on one side of the road and simply put up gates and say, ‘I don’t want anyone on my property,'” he said.

Jones said the trustees want to keep the road open due to its location between the Elk Run and Kennedy Ridge roads, and its potential beneficial usage. He said they would like to attempt to acquire funding to fix up and maintain the roadway so that motorists will eventually be able to use it for travel.

“His property is no different from my property. We live here, we all live here, we love our county and to want to do what’s best for the public is to have a road that goes from Kennedy Ridge to Elk Run Road,” he said.

Engineer Doug Bachman submitted a letter opposing the potential road vacancy.

After hearing from those in attendance, commissioners made their decision. Commissioner Don Bethel made a motion to reject the petition based on the trustees’ and the engineer’s recommendations.

“At this point, I feel it is in the best interest of the shared opinion of the township trustees and the engineer. I make a motion to disapprove the petition,” Bethel said.

Commissioner Paul Coffland seconded the motion to reject the petition.

“Obviously I don’t think this can be resolved and there are a number of issues with both sides. At this point, unfortunately, I think it will be decided by a court and jury,” he said.

Commissioner Dale Norris agreed and the petition to vacate the section of roadway was unanimously denied.

If Elk Run Reserve LLC chooses to press forward with the matter, they may take it before common pleas court.

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