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Brasher officials abandon town road involved in neighborhood dispute

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BRASHER FALLS - A road that has been the scene of what Brasher officials say is a dispute between two neighbors - and one town officials have been unable to resolve for the past year-and-a-half - has been abandoned by the town.

That means the town will no longer be involved in the dispute between the neighbors on Eamon Road, according to Supervisor M. James Dawson, who said it also relieves them of any possible future litigation by the residents.

“For the past year-and-a-half or so I’ve been in the middle of a dispute between two people regarding a gate going across the road,” Mr. Dawson told board members during a special meeting this week.

He said he had tried to reconcile the disagreements between both parties, but had been unsuccessful.

Mr. Dawson said one neighbor had installed a gate across the gravel road, which branches off from Upper Ridge Road and ends at the Brasher State Forest. That prevented the second neighbor from accessing the forest on a four-wheeler.

“He wants to go all the way down to state land from this road. He just wants to be able to go through there,” he said.

The town supervisor said the neighbor who placed the gate had indicated the road is already considered abandoned because the town has not done anything with it over the past six years and there hasn’t been enough vehicle traffic to qualify as a road.

Mr. Dawson said, according to Roger Linden, the town’s attorney, the road would need to be traveled by six vehicles a day, which it has not been “in excess of six years.”

“If it’s not traveled it ceases to be a highway. It’s not a qualified abandonment. It’s just an abandonment,” in which the town relinquishes all future responsibility for the road, he said.

The road is not on the town’s inventory list, according to Highway Superintendent Larry P. Hewlett.

Because of the neighbor dispute and the non-use of the road, Mr. Linden and Mr. Hewlett have recommended abandoning Eamon Road. The road is “discontinued and abandoned” with the filing of a certificate signed by Mr. Hewlett.

But the move to abandon Eamon Road wasn’t embraced by all council members.

Councilman John M. Keenan said he had little time to consider the move after what he felt was a late notification that the board would be asked to approve the abandonment. He also suggested other residents of the road would also be impacted if the town gave up the road.

“Larry told me about it last week. This is the first I’ve heard about any gate across a road in the town of Brasher,” Mr. Keenan said.

He suggested that because Eamon Road still belonged to the town of Brasher, nobody had a right to put a gate across it.

“If somebody owns property, they have to get on their hands and knees and beg to go across?” he wondered.

“This is a road. He can’t put a gate on a road,” Councilwoman Margaret M. Burns said.

Mr. Dawson reiterated that he had been dealing with the situation for a year-and-a-half and had gotten nowhere with the neighbors. Now, he said, it was time to listen to their attorney’s suggestion.

“This is what he suggested we do,” he said.

“What do we have to lose if we tell him you can’t have a gate?” Mr. Keenan wondered. “This guy is telling us what we’re going to do with our town road, is he not? We don’t know if there’s been six cars down that road.”

Mr. Hewlett said the neighbor who placed the gate had told him that, according to law, he was within his right because the road becomes abandoned after six years.

“He says it’s abandoned. He’ll take us to court,” Mr. Hewlett said.

“If we abandon it, it’s a civil thing. We have nothing more to do with it,” Mr. Dawson added.

He said both sides may have a case in the argument, whether it’s the person who claims the road is abandoned or the neighbor who says he has the right of way because the town never officially abandoned the road.

“There is an argument both ways. Either side could make a notice of claim. They’ve both got a case,” Mr. Dawson said.

Mr. Keenan said abandoning a road because it hadn’t been worked on in six years perhaps meant they should abandon other roads that had not received attention in the same time frame.

“Should the roads he hasn’t worked on in six years be thrown in automatically?” he wondered.

“So you’re suggesting we wait until both sides sue us. That’s the reality of it,” Mr. Dawson said.

“Who said they’re going to sue us?” Mr. Keenan asked.

“It appears to me that both parties said it’s going to get nasty,” Mr. Dawson replied.

“You couldn’t please him no matter what you said,” Mr. Hewlett noted.

Mr. Keenan wondered if they could have more time to think about their options before making a decision. But Mr. Dawson recommended moving ahead because the town’s hands would be tied if they received a notice of claim before they had a chance to officially abandon the road.

“We should get it taken care of. If it ends up in court it’s going to cost us a lot of money,” Councilman William D. Demo said.

With Councilman Mark Peets absent from the meting, Mr. Dawson, Mrs. Burns and Mr. Demo all voted yes on a motion to abandon the road. Mr. Keenan, although voting yes, was hesitant about the decision.

“I’m very reluctant. I’ll probably vote yes,” he said, suggesting they needed to have a discussion about town roads in the future.

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