From the pages of
Sublette Examiner
Volume 5, Number 52 - March 23, 2006
brought to you online by Pinedale Online

Landowners protest road taking

by Cat Urbigkit

Sublette County Commissioners continued the public hearing on the commission’s proposal to “take” a portion of Bill Busbice’s private property through adverse possession in order to designate the LaBarge Creek Road a county road.

At the commission’s last meeting, the commission tabled the road hearing, only to have it reconvene Tuesday.

Commission Chair Betty Fear said she received an e-mail protest of the action from Busbice and read that into the record.

In his letter, Busbice said that he felt that the parties involved in the LaBarge Creek Road issue, including five private property owners in Sublette County, had been “working toward a solution to the problem for some time,” and that was the purpose of a meeting held on the road last fall.

Busbice said that after the meeting, the next thing he received was a written easement agreement that the county expected him to sign. Busbice, who lives in Louisiana, indicated that he would be coming back to Wyoming in the spring and would further discuss granting an easement at that time.

Since the county had made public its intent to take the roadway through adverse possession, rather than negotiating the terms of an easement, Busbice entered a written objection into the record.

Kevin Prather represented Busbice at the commission meeting. Neighboring landowner Bob Harrower was also in attendance.

Harrower asked the commission to clarify the difference between adverse possession and condemnation proceedings, to which Fear responded that adverse possession “is much less than condemnation.”

Scherbel explained that if the county has maintained the road for 10 years or more, it could take the road easement by adverse possession. Since the county had maintained the road through Busbice’s property for more than 10 years, it could be taken by adverse possession, unlike Harrower’s property.

Scherbel said, “It won’t affect your land because the county has not maintained it.” Harrower said if that is the case, the county was advising landowners of the dangers of allowing the county to maintain the road, if adverse possession could be the result.

Harrower said that in his view, adverse possession should be a last resort. He suggested that the county spend more time negotiating with the landowner instead.

Harrower explained that after the meeting on the roadway last fall, it was his understanding that he was to submit a proposal to the government regarding the access. Although he did that, and the letter was sent to various agencies that had been involved in the meeting, he received absolutely no response.

Although the agencies were all involved in discussing wanting the road easement, none of the agencies responded with what they were willing to do to address the landowners’ concerns in exchange.

Harrower pointed out when it comes to the agencies “... the only thing they want is ownership of the road.”

Harrower said his interest is get-ting an agency to agree to maintain the road, adding that he doesn’t understand why Sublette County is doing this for Lincoln County, since it’s that county that is pushing for the access.

If Lincoln County’s main concern is providing access to the snowmachine parking area, Harrower suggested more negotiation is needed.

“I’m sure something could be worked out,” he said, adding that he hated to see this adverse possession or condemnation happen anywhere

Fear said in Harrower’s case, “You made it real clear that you had no intention of giving an easement to the county.”

The county had an indication that it would “never be able to work anything out with you,” Fear said, so there was little point in the county continuing to try negotiating with him.

As for Busbice, Fear said, “I would rather do anything than an adverse possession,” although “we feel that it’s in the public’s best interest” to have public access to the snowmobile access point of the road, which Lincoln County has agreed to maintain.

Although Lincoln County has maintained the road for years, Fear said they are “getting head shy about it,” because of liability issues.

Commissioner Bill Cramer said he was a little offended by Bill Busbice’s protest because he felt the only reason the county even became involved in the issue was because of Busbice. Cramer said as he understood it, Busbice complained about the shape of the road to a Louisiana congressman, who then complained to the Bureau of Land Management, generating all the interest in the issue.

Cramer said it sounds like Busbice wants the road maintained, but doesn’t want to provide an easement for the maintenance to be done.

Cramer said, “The only reason the county got involved in this is because the lands are in Sublette County. We’ve been drug into this, from my point of view, almost kicking and screaming.”

“I want to help,” Cramer said, but added that he doesn’t want “to be tarred and feathered” in the process.

Linn proposed that the issue be tabled until the commission’s May 7 meeting, at which point Busbice should be in attendance and willing to negotiate the terms of the easement in order to have the county halt adverse possession proceedings.

“He needs to be there with his negotiation package,” Linn said.

Fear said, “I would sure feel better if we could sit down and have him agree to an easement.” Fear said that she would try to arrange for Lincoln County Commissioners to be involved via telephone on that day.

The issue was tabled until the May 7 meeting.

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