Joined: 09 Sep 2005
|Posted: Sun Apr 16, 2006 3:41 pm Post subject: Claim to bike pathís land in dispute (Ohio)
|Foundation built 14-mile trail in í80s without title search
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
Thursday, February 23, 2006, Kelly Hassett
A local foundation built a bike path on private property without checking to see who owned the land.
Now there is a gate across the popular bike path along Raccoon Creek in Newark, authorized by two sisters who have staked their claim to land they say is theirs. To further complicate the issue, a Newark man says he owns the land, and that he has no problem with hikers and bikers using the T.J. Evans Bike Trail. The city, which manages the trail, is looking for the title to clear up the mess. "Weíre taking a step backward," said Doug Sassen, the city law director. The bike trail runs 14 miles from Newark to Johnstown.
The Thomas J. Evans Foundation, a philanthropic organization based in Licking County, built the path through land owned by sisters Sarah Fuller and Flory Schultheiss of California without asking their permission, said their Columbus attorney, Robert Kiger.
Now the sisters put up a gate across part of the bike trail, declaring it their private property, he said.
Foundation chairman J. Gilbert Reese said he didnít know who owned that section of land when he built the trail and didnít look for titles. He did get consent from other neighbors that he knew to run the path through their properties.
Reese, whose law firm owns Lawyers Title Agency of Licking County Inc., said he received a letter about a year ago from the sisters, saying, "We own this and you built a bike trail on it."
Bike path construction started in the 1980s, but the sisters live in California.
Now John Franks, of Newark, says he owns that section of land the sisters say is theirs.
Franks owns land close to the sistersí land and gave the foundation permission to run the trail through part of his property years ago.
But after Rt. 16 was built, splitting the land parcels, the property lines were re-marked in error, Franks said.
"Their property is nowhere near the bike trail," he said. "I just want our property pin where itís supposed to be."
Kiger said he knew nothing about Franksí claim.
His clients are willing to grant an easement to the city for the part of land the trail runs through. They are not willing to let go of the title for their entire 4 acres of land, he said.
The land has no access other than the creek or the bike trail, Reese said.
"Itís a totally useless piece of property. Nobody would buy it," he said. "Iím just so disappointed in these girls that they wouldnít do this for their community."
Reese said the sisters have asked for money, attorneys fees and insurance liability payments in case of injury on the land.
Sassen said if Franks owns that land, thereís no problem with bike trail traffic. If the sisters own it, the city might have to look into eminent domain.
" Itís going to be kind of a complicated question, but it needs to be answered," Sassen said.
sent in by Pamela Moore
Posted by Dixie Moore, Secretary KRTC