County reviews road, right-of-way matters
The issue of roads and rights-of-way came up during the May 15 meeting of the Carbon County Commission, with the Nine Mile Canyon and Spring Canyon areas leading the way.
In particular, the Nine Mile Canyon county right-of-way has been troublesome to the commission since Utah turned State Road 53 over to the local governmental body.
"We have to be careful not to shoot ourselves in the foot on this issue," stated Commissioner Mike Milovich during the discussion. "We need to ask if any kind of action, such as this resolution, will cause us legal problems."
The resolution was introduced to the commission in May and, since then, Carbon lawmakers have been considering the ramifications of establishing a defined roadway corridor.
"The point is that we are not trying to take more land, but we want to use the historical right-of-way as a guide to what we have," stated county lands and access coordinator Rex Sacco in support of passing the resolution.
But county attorney Gene Strate voiced concerns about the tentative plans for the right-of-way and the legal problems the matter could generate.
"My concern is about the idea of a 100-foot right-of-way," explained Strate. "It appears what we are saying here is that where the right-of-way isn't prescriptive, we own it."
"I worry that might be an illegal taking of land. It seems we either have the land or we don't," indicated the county attorney.
County building and zoning director Dave Levanger pointed out that a significant part of the problem goes back to when the state turned over the road to the county.
"When they did that in 1968, there were only three areas that had prepared maps," noted Levanger. "In the days before that, the state officials did little in the way of acquiring rights to land they needed for roads."
"There are an awful lot of roads in this state that no one has any maps or legal documents to. I understand Gene's concern, but we would prepare a map according to the fence lines," explained the county planning and zoning director.
In some places in the canyon, the areas in question have been defined by bar ditches, commented Commissioner Bill Krompel. In other places, the areas have been defined by fences.
"Basically, in a lot of places, the area for the road has shrunk over the years," said Krompel.
The main reason to pass a resolution on the canyon is to develop a written statement on what the commission believes is the county's road, noted Sacco.
"It would also assist the (United States) Bureau of Land Management and others in their efforts, and it could also identify, for engineering purposes, what we have to work with," explained Levanger.
But, based on the information presented at the meeting and Strate's concerns, the commissioners hesitated to approve the resolution.
"I think we need some guidelines here," stated Krompel. "Let's get some measurements on the road so we can know what we are dealing with."
However, Milovich questioned the recommendation because no one knows the width of the right-of-way in many places.
Following the discussion, the commissioners decided to study the issue, gather more information and address the matter at a future public meeting.
The next item on the agenda had to do with a situation relating to a different right-of-way issue.
"We are here to ask for your help," said Rick Gatherum, a landowner in Spring Canyon near Helper. "We have a bad trespassing problem on our property. Pretty much on any day, you can find people who aren't supposed to be there on our land."
"Last year, we had a trailer and a four-wheeler stolen from our property. I was even assaulted on the property when I approached four guys who had a campfire going there," claimed the property owner.
Gatherum and Gary Foy, a second land owner, said they had taken all the legal precautions they could by posting no trespassing signs along the road that accesses the Spring Canyon area.
"We get lots of fires started on our property and broken bottles are strewn everywhere," reported Foy. "We had a gate on our property in one place that got run over and smashed by someone."
The property owners also complained about the graffiti on the old Mutual Store building, pointing out that the situation was getting out of hand and a significant amount of the writing involves vulgar comments.
"What we're looking for is your help and suggestions," noted Gatherum. "We also have a couple of proposals. One thing we would like to see is a locked gate put near the Mutual building site. We would supply the gate and the lock ourselves."
But the problem of trespassing and destruction of property in the canyon is not a new one.
The commissioners have heard from many land owners in the area over the years about similar problems.
At one point, the county supported installing a locked gate across the road in the canyon to keep the problems down in the area.
However, the matter of public access into the Spring Canyon area subsequently became an issue.
"The fact is that I believe the county has a prescriptive right-of-way there," pointed out Krompel. "There are many good folks who want access to that area. There is also some Utah State Institutional Trust Lands above your land that people need to be able to get to."
"What needs to be done is to isolate the people who are causing the problem," indicated Krompel.
But Gatherum stated he could not understand why people should want to access the land in question.
However, the Carbon commissioners insisted that approving a permanently locked gate across a county road would be setting a bad precedent.
"We could open Pandora's Box by having a gate put up there," commented Commissioner Steve Burge. "Landowners are responsible for their own land. There is a limit as to what the government can do to protect private property."
Milovich suggested that a gate might could be used to control access at night, but that any details on such a move would have to worked out.
"The main bone of contention over the years has been the road that goes over the top of the canyon," he stated. "We are just very limited as to what we can do."
Sheriff James Cordova told the pair that if the property is posted and fenced, his deputies can help.
"However, there can't be any gray areas in this," said the Sheriff. "It must be black and white. The Helper police may be able to help too."
In conclusion the commissioners said they would check into closing the area at night and asked the two owners to work with the sheriff's department on problems in the area.
In a final item on the agenda the commission said that Edwards and Daniels Architects have been selected out of 20 applicants to be the designers for the new ambulance garage.
The building is slated to be constructed on 100 West and about 50 North in Price.
The commissioners noted that some problems on property lines will need to be worked out, but a resolution of the situations should be coming in the near future.