MANSFIELD — A joint meeting on Thursday between the Knox County and Richland County commissioners resulted in a motion to vacate a portion of Township Road 24, also known as Leedy’s Lane. Deliberations on the status of this dirt road have been ongoing at different times over many years.
The dirt road straddles the Richland-Knox county line just off Ohio 95 and involves property owners who own land on either side. Access to various portions of property is gained only by crossing a deteriorating bridge which has been the main focus of the proposals for vacation. A total of 60 acres is owned by Darla Holtkamp, who resides in a house just past the bridge with Frank Nagy. Also owning 80 acres adjacent to the Holtkamp property is Diane and Doug Snell.
Originally laid out in 1845, Leedy’s Lane crosses a creek known as Isaiah’s Run. The bridge crossing the creek is in an advanced state of deterioration, and has seen a series of culverts put in over the years.
In April 2009, the Richland and Knox County commissioners met with the intent to consider vacation of the existing portion of the road, consisting of 679.24 feet in length. After much deliberation, the Richland County Engineer’s Office reviewed the conditions related to this vacation and made the following observations:
•The drive did not appear to be maintained in recent years, or possibly ever, by either Jefferson Township of Richland County or Berlin Township of Knox County.
•The makeshift bridge was not installed or maintained by either Richland County or Knox County. The bridge was rebuilt by a contractor in April 1999 without the knowledge of either the Knox or Richland county engineers. The bridge is in part on private property and in part on public property, and does not meet the standards for a public bridge on a public highway.
•The joint Richland-Knox counties resolution passed on July 29, 1959, for the vacation of Leedy Road east of the present portion of Leedy Road under consideration, referred to the western terminus of the vacation as Leedy Lane, not Leedy Road.
•The existing Holtkamp house and barn are partially on the portion of the Leedy Road right of way proposed for vacation and therefore Holtkamp would benefit from the vacation of this section of Leedy Road, thus their home would not encroach on the public right of way.
Although it was the opinion of the Richland County Engineer to vacate this portion of Leedy’s Lane at that time, a joint vote by the Knox and Richland county commissioners rejected the proposal.
Then in March 2010, the Berlin Township board of trustees passed a resolution that they believed was in their best interest to support the vacation of the lane and to proceed with this process, claiming that it serves no public purpose, has been abandoned for more than 60 years, and on that basis is vacated by matter of law.
At the urging of Knox County Prosecutor John Thatcher, a “Road Closed” sign was erected at Leedy’s Lane by Knox County Engineer Jim Henry, and a public notice was published announcing a hearing on this decision scheduled for Thursday.
Commissioners from both counties, plus township trustees, gathered at Leedy’s Lane on Thursday morning to get another view of the situation before proceeding to the hearing at the Richland County Commissioners office in Mansfield.
Representing the Jefferson Township Trustees was attorney Reese Mills who presented information on why he believed the lane should be vacated.
“We can vacate for reasons of public convenience and welfare,” said Mills, adding that the Ohio Department of Transportation does not recognize this as a road and has at no time submitted any funds. “Where does it go?” “Who does it serve?” and “What does it do?” are questions that need to be asked when considering the road’s purpose, said Mills, who in his final comments stated that the road should be vacated by default.
“There is public interest,” said Doug Snell. “That interest is in maintaining the road for us property owners.”
“No public entity has done anything; and we have asked it be maintained for the last two and one-half years,” said Nagy, who claims the fire department won’t drive back the lane because of the condition of the bridge and that he can’t get fire insurance.
After both sides voiced their opinion on the matter, the commissioners moved to vote to consider vacation. Knox County Commissioners Allen Stockberger and Teresa Bemiller joined the Richland County Commissioners in voting “yes” for vacation, while Bob Wise voted “no.”
“I voted no only because there was more than one party affected,” said Wise.
“Information provided today gave me a better understanding of the situation,” said Bemiller in her response to voting for vacation.
“This really won’t change anything; it’s been this way for many years,” said Stockberger, who said vacation would release the liability of the townships and county.
Prior to adjournment, Nagy and Snell each submitted papers to appeal the commissioners’ decision, which will now go to court in Richland County.