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Constableville area ATV trail plans stalled by Lewis legislators

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"LOWVILLE — A contingent of litigation-weary lawmakers has put the brakes on plans to expand Lewis County’s all-terrain vehicle trail system in the Constableville area.

“I’m sick of using taxpayer money to fight legal battles,” Legislator Jerry H. King, R-West Leyden, said at a special meeting Tuesday morning.

A resolution approving access agreements with 17 private landowners and the village of Constableville for inclusion of off-road and street segments — ranging from 0.1 mile to 1.4 miles — into the ATV trail system failed by a 5-5 vote, with Mr. King and Legislators Philip C. Hathway, R-Harrisville; John O. Boyd, D-New Bremen; Paul M. Stanford, D-Watson; and Charles R. Fanning, R-Copenhagen, opposed.

Six votes are required for passage on the 10-member board.

Clifford White from the Highmarket Wheelers ATV Club said that his organization has spent roughly $11,000, some of it from a Yamaha grant, to do trail work on the private parcels in order to open up the area to ATV traffic. About 80 percent of the work is already completed, he said.

“It’s going to be a major economical difference,” Mr. White said.

However, Mr. Hathway said he was concerned that the overall plan — also involving the opening of county and town roads — may not pass legal muster because some of the “trails” would apparently involve road-to-road connections. In previous and pending cases filed by local opponents to county ATV road openings, judges have indicated that such a set-up is not proper under state law, he said.

Legislator Richard C. Lucas, R-Barnes Corners, suggested lawmakers first approve the access agreements, then consider the proposed road openings as separate issues. Mr. Hathway countered that the trail plan should be discussed in its entirety right away, since it wouldn’t make sense to approve miniature trails without connections to the system.

“This is not the way to build a trail system,” Mr. King said.

He suggested it would be difficult to legally defend new trails based on short off-road segments connected by longer stretches of road.

“You’ve got to be a lunatic to go before a judge with this,” Mr. King said.

A parcel owned by Karen R. Schue-Baruth, wife of past County Manager Joseph L. Baruth Sr., was erroneously included in the access-agreement resolution, when it should have been a neighboring parcel owned by Jason Smith. County Trail Coordinator Robert C. Diehl took responsibility for the mistake, and legislators amended the resolution but then failed to pass it, anyway.

Resolutions to set public hearings on proposed laws that would open 1.41 miles of Byrons Corners Road and 0.55 miles of Highmarket Road also failed by 5-5 votes, while lawmakers tabled a public hearing resolution on a law opening 0.3 miles of Mackay Road by a 7-3 vote, with Mr. Lucas, Mr. Fanning and Legislator Michael A. Tabolt, R-Croghan, opposed.

Public hearings were set for 9 a.m. Aug. 7 on a pair of laws opening 1.75- and 0.79-mile segments of Mackay Road by identical, 6-4 votes, with Mr. Fanning on the affirmative side for those two. Those stretches apparently did not include road-to-road connections.

Legislators on Tuesday also set public hearings for their Aug. 7 meeting on laws forming a local development corporation to manage debt for Lewis County General Hospital, regulating camping on county property and banning possession or sale of synthetic drugs like bath salts.

A local development corporation, governed by a three- to seven-member board, would “separate the liability from the county” for any borrowing of money to offset operating deficits, said Timothy A. Frateschi from Harris Beach law firm, the county’s bond counsel. However, it should not impact operations at the facility, he said.

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