MARQUETTE - The question of whether road abandonment procedures were properly followed lies at the heart of a lawsuit against Marquette County by the Huron Mountain Club.
On Feb. 16, 2009, the road commission voted unanimously to move forward with the abandonment of a bridge over the Salmon Trout River and a short section of Marquette County Road KK. On April 3, the road commission published the abandonment resolution in The Mining Journal.
But later, legal counsel for the road commission advised the process was not completed properly and therefore claimed the abandonment did not occur.
An attorney for the road commission advised the process should be redone, adhering carefully to the provisions of proper state statutes on abandonment. The club claims the process was sound and is in effect.
A motion for summary disposition of the case is scheduled to be heard by Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Solka on Feb. 12 at the Marquette County courthouse. The county wants the judge to dismiss the suit.
In court documents, the Huron Mountain Club claims it is the sole owner of record and occupant of the land abutting the road. The county disputes this.
County attorneys argue the club's petition for abandoning the road and bridge do not comply with the state abandonment statute.
The county claims any abandonment petition must be signed by seven free holders of the township where the road is located.
The club's petition was signed only by the club. The county claims this renders the petition "defective on its face and ineffective under the abandonment statute."
County attorneys said easement holders were entitled to notice of the abandonment proceedings, but none was given because the club failed to list any easement holders on its petition.
The county claims the abandonment requested would cause easement holders nearby property to be landlocked.
The county argues it has continued to exercise control and incur expenses for the road and bridge since the "ineffective abandonment" last February, including redecking the bridge in September, imposing new bridge load restrictions in October, granting the Longyear Corporation a permit to build a temporary bridge in December and plowing the road.
The club claims the abandonment resolution "validly effectuated abandonment of the road."
Club attorneys said the county has no authority to reconsider the abandonment because no petition for abandonment is pending and because title to the road is vested in the club free of any interest or claim by the county, township or the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Environment.
The county denies the club owns the road.
Club attorneys want the judge to compel the county to record the resolution with the register of deeds office. The club also wants the judge to determine the parties' rights to the road.
Lawyers for the club claim the county has exercised dominion and control over the road, despite the club's ownership claim.
The club claims the county has interfered with the club's property interest in the road, without affording due process.
If the judge finds in the county's favor, the club wants the county to reimburse the club for expenditures it made, based on the club's declaration it had abandoned the road.
The club stated in court documents it retained an engineer to evaluate the bridge, purchased property for a new turnaround at the site and began construction on that feature last year.