Bradley County eyes rural right-of-way issues

Bradley County eyes rural right-of-way issues

February 26th, 2012 Paul Leach/Correspondent in News

Tom Collins, Bradley County road superintendant, in the Bradley County Road Department Garage

Photo by Brett Clark

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- Attempts to settle a right-of-way matter on an old rural road have spurred the need for Bradley County commissioners to address a bigger issue.

Last week, the County Commission made an offer to replace barbed-wire fencing that may be removed by the Bradley County Road Department on a 100-foot stretch of property along Elkmont Road. The settlement would require property owner Jerry DeVane to exchange a quitclaim deed in return for land falling within the right of way.

"I just want to point out that we're making a commitment to pay for all fences we remove in the future," Road Committee Chairman Mel Griffith said.

None of the commissioners would tell their constituents that the county might replace the fences of some property owners but not others, Griffith said.

Regardless of the settlement with DeVane, the county will not be legally obligated to handle future right-of-way disputes in the same way, County Attorney Crystal Freiberg has said.

The county's Road Department wants to remove a number of trees near the intersection of Elkmont and Freewill roads, citing safety concerns. Removal of the trees will require the removal of sections of a livestock fence that is attached to them.

In an earlier meeting with county commissioners, Road Superintendent Tom Collins said the offer to replace any removed fencing was not necessary. He said county road records dating back to 1930 show that the county already has a 33-foot right of way extending from the center of the road.

The Bradley County Road Department would not replace any fencing, said Collins, who recommended the county have a contractor do the work.

"I say we've got to do what is right and not just follow the letter of the law," Commissioner Terry Caywood said.

Caywood said many rural properties have old fences that technically may fall within the right of way on country roads that the county has adopted and maintained for decades. However, he said, it is not right to remove those fences without considering those property owners.

The county's Road Committee will meet to discuss criteria for rural road right-of-way policy on March 7 at 9 a.m. at the Bradley County Road Department.

Paul Leach is based in Cleveland. Email him at paul.leach.press@gmail.com.