Citizen responds negatively to abandonment of county road

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road abandonment

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – Abandonment of Olin Hughes Road was finalized Tuesday, Sept. 17, by Towns Sole Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw at the county courthouse. The topic surfaced during a public hearing last month, with Bradshaw consulting with Towns County attorney Robb Kiker on the conflicted matter. Bradshaw explained that while the decision to abandon County Road 38 was carefully weighed, the road is shown to be located on private property and has not been maintained by Towns County for several decades.

Olin Hughes RD

Olin Hughes Road is located in Young Harris.

Cecil and Terry Hughes, descendents of the street’s namesake, attended the Aug. 20 meeting in a show of support for county abandonment. The Hughes claimed that the road was constructed and maintained over the years by the late Olin Hughes, and is therefore private. Becky Landress, a landowner whose property connects to the road in question, opposed consideration of abandonment at the August meeting.

“This public county road has been illegally closed off for an extreme length of time by Terry Hughes,” Landress publicly stated Tuesday evening, following Bradshaw’s announcement. “Barriers were placed at both ends of this road, with one of the gates still up. The county has been aware of Mr. Hughes actions, with no repercussions for breaking the law. I am certain officials have known about this, at least since Aug. 20, when I brought it to the county attorney’s attention. We have discounted every single bullet in the original published notice, except for maintenance records on the road that the county can not find.

“We didn’t even get our notice, as required, given we are an adjoining land owner; until Aug. 26, six days after the meeting. We were just lucky enough to see it in the newspaper. Given the fact that Mr. Hughes came to the county asking for this action, why is the county having to prove maintenance on the road. I mean, it became a county road somehow; probably because the county built the road. Shouldn’t the one asking for a change be the one to prove that was not the case and show proof where their ancestors built this road? Not the other way around.

“We even only asked for an easement to be given to us to access a very small portion of this road, so we can access our land from the back. At least a prescriptive easement, in which I am fairly certain is legally afforded to us. If this action takes place, and no regard is given to how this will affect us, an easement is the least inconvenience that should be afforded to us.”

Approximately two-thirds of Landress’ property adjoins Olin Hughes Road, and Landress explained at the prior meeting that privatization would cause hardship.

Cecil Hughes

(L-R) Attorney Robb Kiker, Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, and Cecil Hughes at the August public hearing.

“Lastly, my parents, for example; live on a small county road, much like County Road 38,” Landress concluded. “There are only three residents on that road. If no maintenance records can be found for the road they live on, could they petition the county for abandonment and it be granted, whether it devalues or inconveniences the other property and property owners around them.

“If not, how is that circumstance any different? Their road became a county road somehow as well. I can’t specifically recall any maintenance done on it. I would say that is the case for many roads all around this county. Aren’t we opening up the county to have more residents asking for what is being done here?

“To abandon a road and give a resident that inherited a property, not even the original owner, their way, and disregard our opposition to this action is absurd. This is extremely important to us. Why give in to someone asking for the change because we can’t find proof of maintenance? The burden of proof should fall on the petitioner and I for one, would love to see proof that someone other than tax paying citizens of Towns County paid for County Road 38 to be formed.”

Landress divulged at the August hearing that issues concerning the road closure arose with the Hughes’ family following the deaths of Olin Hughes and his wife.

“There’s two ways that roads become county roads,” County Attorney Kiker explained last month.”It’s by dedication which is by deed, or court order, eminent domains, or something of that nature. The other one is called implied access. Implied access is when the public starts using an access and the county starts maintaining that access, and actually, many of our roads have been established that way for public roads. So in a dedication situation, a road is a road is a road. It will always remain a road until such time as there’s a deed coming out of the county, or some other action coming out of the county, to close a road.

“Implied access only continues so long as the public uses a road and the county maintains a road. Once those matters cease, then that road then becomes subject to closure, being taken off the county road system and the maps for the Department of Transportation. This road meets the second criteria of implied dedication. According to our records, there has not been any maintenance of this road for at least 30 years, both in records and recollection, nor use of the county road by the public or for public purpose at least that long.”

Feature Image: Becky Landress opposes abandonment of Olin Hughes Road at the August public hearing.

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Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

Opposition to county abandonment of Olin Hughes Road raised at public hearing

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Olin Hughes Road

HIAWASSEE, Ga. – A public hearing on the county abandoment of Olin Hughes Road, listed on the Department of Transportation’s mapping system as County Road 38, was held at the Towns County Courthouse, Aug. 20. Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker joined Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw to discuss the matter.

“There’s two ways that roads become county roads,” Attorney Kiker began.”It’s by dedication which is by deed, or court order, eminent domains, or something of that nature. The other one is called implied access. Implied access is when the public starts using an access and the county starts maintaining that access, and actually, many of our roads have been established that way for public roads. So in a dedication situation, a road is a road is a road. It will always remain a road until such time as there’s a deed coming out of the county, or some other action coming out of the county, to close a road. Implied access only continues so long as the public uses a road and the county maintains a road. Once those matters cease, then that road then becomes subject to closure, being taken off the county road system and the maps for the Department of Transportation. This road meets the second criteria of implied dedication. According to our records, there has not been any maintenance of this road for at least 30 years, both in records and recollection, nor use of the county road by the public or for public purpose at least that long.”

Becky Landress

Becky Landress speaks against the road abandonment at the public hearing.

The floor was opened for public comment following Kiker’s explaination. Becky Landress, a property owner with land bordering Olin Hughes Road, opposed county abandoment based on public use. Landress said that a third of her property adjoins Olin Hughes Road, and that allowing the road to be privatized will prevent future access, denying an alternate route to-and-from the residence. Landress claimed that issues arose following the deaths of Olin and Lois Hughes, with the sons of the late couple erecting barriers to restrict travel. “We are the public,” Landress asserted. Landress was accompanied to the meeting by husband, John, who mentioned that the road is traveled by the public to reach Hughes Sorghum Syrup Mill.

Cecil Hughes countered the argument, stating that the road has been solely maintained by the Hughes’ family since adjacent property was purchased in 1957, adding that his father had supplied the needed gravel and culverts. “It’s always been private,” Hughes said. It was noted by Terry Hughes that the road does not have a mail delivery nor school bus route, further implying that the road is not public.

Both Landress and Hughes provided the county with photographs of the area in question to present their opposing stance.

Olin Huges Road

Olin Hughes Road is located in Young Harris.

Towns County Road Superintendent Clyde Shook was briefly questioned by Attorney Kiker, with Shook unable to recall repairs to Olin Hughes Road in his 42 years of county service.

Commissioner Bradshaw tabled a decision, stating that he plans to give the matter additional consideration. Future meetings pertaining to the potential road abandonment will be publicly announced.

Feature Image: (L-R) Towns County Attorney Robb Kiker, Towns County Commissioner Cliff Bradshaw, and Cecil Hughes, a proponent of the road’s abandonment.

Author

Robin H. Webb

Robin can be reached by dialing 706-487-9027 or contacted via email at Robin@FetchYourNews.com --- News tips will be held in strict confidence upon request.

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