HAWTHORNE – On Tuesday night, the Hawthorne City Commission tackled the issue of whether a road, SE 76th Place, should be closed.
City Manager Ellen Vause originally proposed to place “do not enter” signs at the entrance of the road. She also said she spoke with a property owner that would be affected by the road closure.
After further examination, Vause now says six more property owners would be affected by the closure. And it may mean that these property owners will be required to contribute money to shut the road down.
“I thought it would be a simple road closing, but the more you look at it, the more challenges we have,” Vause said.
Property owners are responsible for funding the fencing and barricading of each property, Vause said. However, because the road is a historical pathway, the legal question is who would be responsible for which tasks and costs.
The dirt road has occasionally been maintained by the City throughout the years. And there are water and sewer lines running down the road, but the City does not have a legal right to maintain them.
Chris Dawson, a city planner with Alachua County, said the issue of ownership of the road arises because the public is using private land as a road.
“The road runs on private property and the City has been maintaining it without any authorization,” he said. “The City will be using these owners’ land one way or another.”
Referring to the road closure, city attorney Audrie Harris said property owners should be required to pay for a portion of the costs, such as purchasing the barricades. Residents will not be compensated for use of the land.
“It is reasonable for the City to tell residents they need to help with these expenses,” she said.
Mayor Matthew Surrency said he believes property owners should take some of the responsibility for the costs of closing the road.
“If the property owners want something different, then it should be their burden to try and find out what they need to do,” he said.
If the road is closed, in order to give affected residents access to their homes, the City would have to construct two roads to the north and south of 76th Place.
Commissioner DeLoris Roberts said the addition of these two roads combined with the costs of closing down SE 76th Place would not be the best economic choice for the City.
“This would have a lot of expense involved, which our budget does not speak to at the moment,” she said.
Vause asked the City Commission for guidance on how to proceed with the road closing. The commission directed City staff to meet with each property owner individually to determine their use of SE 76th Place and how access to their homes would be affected.
The commission also advised Vause to secure a utility easement, or an entitlement from the owners of the land, for the use of the water lines and sewer system, to allow the City to use and maintain the utilities.
Once these tasks are completed, the issue will be brought back to the City Commission for further discussion. Surrency advised City staff to document the property owner’s decisions.
“We have to make sure it is recorded so we don’t get sued later,” he said.
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