From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 2, Number 1 - April 4, 2002
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Willow Creek Road petition not adequate

by Cat Urbigkit

Willow Creek Road petition not adequate

Sublette County Clerk Mary Lankford said Tuesday that an examination of the citizen petition for extending the countyís jurisdiction for the length of New Fork-Willow Creek County Road revealed the petition is inadequate.

Lankford notified the Sublette County Commissioners of the problem at the commissionís meeting Tuesday morning.

At a meeting last month, Pinedale resident William Belveal presented the petition to extend the road through property belonging to John Blatt. Although the road already physically exists, Blatt has notified federal officials that he intends to close off public access through his private property near the end of the year.

Lankford said surveyor Paul Scherbel reviewed the petition and found that both the name of the road and its legal description were incorrect. In addition, Lankford discovered that two of the six signatures on the petition werenít those of registered voters in the county, a requirement under state statute.

"Itís not ready to be accepted," Lankford said of the petition, so even if the commission were prepared to appoint a road viewer, it would be unable to do so.

Commission Chairman Bill Cramer said he feels the commission needs to closely examine what the road issue will entail, including possible expenses, and discuss whether the petitioners should have to front a bond or deposit.

"To me, weíre not initiating this ..." Cramer said, "we could be getting into a real mess here."

Commissioner Betty Fear responded, "I would like to visit the bond issue too."

Commissioner Gordon Johnston said Belveal shouldnít have to foot the bill, noting he suggested that Belveal file the petition.

Cramer said a petitioner availing himself of the procedure established in the road petition statute should be "prepared to step up to the plate and put his money where his mouth is" when he gets into that situation.

"Iíve already led him into that situation," Johnston said of Belveal, to which Cramer responded, "Now itís time to educate him."

Johnston said, "Thereís a hell of a lot of citizens out there" who view this particular road issue as their problem also.

Fear suggested that people also need to be willing to join with Belveal, at least with moral support if not financial support. Fear, noting that the majority of people she has spoken with about the issue, oppose the county becoming involved, said the county should not be in a position to "pit a landowner against the public."

Cramer questioned taking on a private landowner for access to public land when there are plenty of places to access the national forest. Cramer said it is premature for the commission to discuss these issues at this time, but added that the bond is an issue for further discussion.

Lankford said that Sublette County Attorney Dale Aronson had prepared a correct petition for the Belvealís use, but Belveal had not been notified of the problems with the earlier petition and was not in attendance.

Under state statute, once a proper petition for a road alteration, vacation or creation is presented to the county commission, the commission is obligated to accept the petition, have a road viewer examine the road and report back to the commission, and conduct a public hearing. The commission has agreed to use a road viewer from outside the county once a proper petition is filed. The commission is also authorized under the law, at its discretion, to have the petitioner post a deposit with the county to "defray the expense" of the petitioned action.

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