City or civil matter?

The city of Vandalia’s legal counsel will try to determine whether it should be involved in a request to relocate a city street as it was platted or whether it’s a civil matter between two parties.
The city council’s streets committee met last week to discuss Andy Lester’s interest in moving a section of Fletcher Street that runs south of his property, running west off of Sunset Drive.
“Fletcher Street needs to be where it should be,” Lester said, explaining that the street currently runs over a part of the south end of his property.
“It’s time that it gets corrected,” he said. “Sooner or later, it needs to be made right.”
Lester – who serves on the council’s street committee with chairman B. John Clark, Russ Stunkel and Ken Hubler – said that the road is located north of where it was platted.
Clark stated early on that he believed that this might be an issue for property owners on both sides of the street to resolve.
It’s his understanding, Lester said, that an individual who owned the property many years ago created a lane back to his house on the east.
Mike Halford, who arrived 30 minutes into the meeting, said it’s his understanding that that individual “scattered some rock” for a lane and that the city later took over the maintenance of it as it became used as a street.
Halford, who has stated his intent to open a car dealership on the south end of Lester’s property, said that the state requires that he comply with city ordinances, and that a city ordinance requires at least 1 acre or property for that business.
While it was discussed whether the location of Fletcher Street prohibits Halford from meeting that city requirement, the city’s Zoning Board of Adjustments approved a special permit in November 2014 after Halford said that a survey shows the property to measure 1.05 acres.
An issue with the relocation of Fletcher Street is the impact on the owners of the property south of the roadway. Relocating the road means that a berm and sign board at Sunset Plaza would have to be moved.
A bigger issue, Chuck Ruot said, is that moving the roadway would encroach on the parking on the north end of their Sunset Plaza.
Ruot, who is partners with Bob DePaolo Jr. and Chuck Harre, said that the “building official gave us permission” to build where they did, and, “We had to have permission to put the sign up.
“The city’s told us everything to do,” Ruot said. “I don’t think we’re in the wrong; the city’s in the wrong.”
The city has been given funds for preliminary work on improvements to Sunset Drive, and Lester said that when that work is done, “the entry needs to be engineered,” talking about his contention that the road should be relocated.
He said that he should be allowed to use all of his property, and when there was talk of the road being left in that location, he asked whether others at the meeting would be willing to give up some of their property.
Keith Jensen, a partner in Burnside, Johnston, Connor and Jensen, the city’s legal counsel said that there should be a way to figure out when the road was platted and when the city started using it as a street.
He said that it could possibly be a matter of “adverse possession,” which could keep the road on its current path because it has been used that way for more than 20 years.
In talking about opening a dealership at that location, Halford said he has a bigger issue with the city taking up 8 feet in front of the building that he plans to use. To that, Mayor Rick Gottman explained that that is city right of way.
During that discussion, Lester said the focus of the committee meeting had changed.
“I thought the purpose (of this meeting) was, is the street where it’s supposed to be.
“Chuck has got stuff in the (platted) street. Have they taken it over? Where’s the street?” Lester said.
In response, Ruot said, “We did everything in good faith.”
“I understand,” Lester said. “It’s just a big misunderstanding.”
The meeting closed with Jensen said that he would have Jack Johnston, the head of the law firm, to look over surveys of the area and see whether they might be “any adverse possession issues.”

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