latte County lost a lawsuit brought by residents along Bridle Parc Lane in southern Platte County with the release of the court’s judgment on Wednesday.
The lawsuit was filed by Robert Bateman against the county, saying that Bridle Parc Lane was a private roadway because paperwork for the roadway easements was not properly filed with the county.
Bateman was represented by William Quitmeier, attorney, in the lawsuit against the county.
In Judge Abe Shafer’s ruling, he declares the roadway is a private road and the only people who use the road are residents and even “the mailman does not use (Bridle Parc Lane), as there is a community mailbox that is accessible from Mace road.”
Shafer’s conclusion continues with the description of the property owners paying to maintain the roadway as well.
“Several Bridle Parc Landowners with easements in their deeds have formed groups and raised funds for maintenance of their private road. They have never had any assistance from the County or other governmental entities.”
“All County records admitted into evidence list (Bridle Parc Lane) as a private road and Platte County, Missouri has not spent public money to construct, maintain, or repair (Bridle Parc Lane).”
Quitmeier said the case largely hinged on a Missouri Supreme Court decision from more than 100 years ago, 1896 to be exact. The case was the City of Sarcoxie v. Herman Wild. In that case, a property owner wanted to create a subdivision and filed a plat for a public street using a portion of a previous private street.
Shafer describes the situation as: “The court found that the reservation in the deed created a private way and that the Carnahans (the property owners) ownership was ‘subject to the incumbrance of the easements of the private way’… The Carnahans dedication failed because the private way easement holders never consented to the dedication. According to Sarcoxie, the property interests of Mr. Bloom and Mr. Bateman ‘could not be deprived, without [their] consent, or by some lawful and regular proceeding.’”
Quitmeier explained that in order to declare the road as public, the county would have had to compensate the neighboring landowners and did not. The county would also have to hold a hearing and did not, so the transfer was void.
“No one ever showed us anything to contradict Sarcoxie,” said Quitmeier.
Quitmeier also cited the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which states, “(No person shall) be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.”
He said the county never provided any compensation to the landowners when declaring the street public.
“The neighbors are all happy to have this done,” said Quitmeier. “We have been arguing about this for five years.”
The county decided to defend the lawsuit in order to uphold the county’s paperwork.
“All I can say is we were advised by the county counselor to protect the county’s interests,” said Betty Knight, presiding commissioner.
“Basically we followed the advice of the county counselor to defend the public records from 1991,” said Jim Plunkett, second district commissioner. “According to the county counselor, when Bateman filed (the suit), we had to defend ourselves. We had to defend the paperwork filed with the county.”
Quitmeier said he was disappointed the county would not just work together on the issue. “Why couldn’t the county just sit down and work together with us?” asked Quitmeier. “We could have avoided all these legal fees.”
Figures obtained by The Landmark on the county’s legal fees incurred through the office of county counselor Bob Shaw show the county paid Shaw as much as $30,000 to $35,000 for work done in connection with the Bateman lawsuit.
The judgment says the attorney fees are to be paid by each party individually and there are no monetary fines for the county.
“Obviously we are disappointed,” said Shaw, county attorney. “There will be a review and we are considering our options. We will decide whether we want to pursue an appeal.”
Shaw said he was not sure whether the commission would want to appeal the decision.
Quitmeier said the county has to wait 30 days from when the judgment is made before filing an appeal and then can file within a 10 day window.
Shaw said that most of the roadways in the county do not have the same types of easements as along Bridle Parc Lane, so no other roadways should be affected by the decision.
Daniel Erickson, planning and zoning director, said his department is currently reviewing the judgment and said he is not sure if it will affect other roads in the county.
“The issue was fairly unique,” said Erickson. “We are reviewing the decision and how it will affect other roads has yet to be determined.”
Erickson explained that the road was unique because it had a pre-existing easement before being platted in 1991. Erickson said the road was dedicated in a previous plat for public use, but was never installed to the standards of the local road district and was never maintained by the county.
According to county maps, Bridle Parc Lane is within the district of the Platte City Special Road District.
The judgment may also affect a lawsuit against the county from developer James Owens over the county’s denial of the Brentwood Parc development. The development would have access along Bridle Parc Lane and also be connected to the Shelter Haven subdivision to the south.
The developer had planned to use the roadway because it was formerly thought to be a public road.
Plunkett said the decision may have an impact on the Owens lawsuit.
“I believe it does, because the plat showed improvements to allow people to go out the north end (of the development),” said Plunkett. “In my opinion this definitely would make a difference on the Owens lawsuit.”
Erickson said the plat submitted by Owens was to be approved on the condition of improving the right-of-way along Bridle Parc Lane.
Several previous subdivision plats submitted by Owens for the property have been denied by the county planning and zoning or county commission.
8/13/08: Developers’ lawsuits vs. county get rolling 5/30/08: Developer files suit vs. county 5/14/08: Brentwood Parc project denied by commission 4/23/08: Beverly appeal denied