MARQUETTE - The Michigan Court of Appeals has affirmed a Marquette County Circuit Court decision against the Huron Mountain Club in a dispute over abandonment procedures for a section of county road and a bridge over the Salmon Trout River in Powell Township.
Marquette County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Solka issued a final judgment in the lower court case on March 1, 2012. The road and bridge are situated near the gate to the private club a few miles northwest of Big Bay.
At issue was a February 2009 road abandonment process conducted by the Marquette County Road Commission, which would have abandoned a bridge over the Salmon Trout River and a short section of Marquette County Road KK to the Huron Mountain Club. The agency had sought the abandonment to relieve itself from the financial burden of maintaining the road and bridge.
The bridge over the Salmon Trout River along Marquette County Road KK near the gate to the Huron Mountain Club in Powell Township is shown. The Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court decision Friday that said the Marquette County Road Commission erred in an attempt to abandon the road and bridge to the club. (Journal file photo by Dave Schneider)
In June 2010, Solka ruled the road commission's abandonment process was flawed and the agency still retained the road and the bridge. Public access to the river would then be retained through a road right of way. The club had argued the process was sound and was in effect. The club planned to move its gate and public access at the bridge would have been eliminated.
While finding in favor of the road commission on the abandonment process issue, Solka agreed in January 2012 that the road commission should reimburse the club for expenditures it had made, after the road commission initially declared it had abandoned the road.
In the settlement, the road commission was ordered to pay $506 in fees and expenses and pay $140,365 to the club for a 32-acre "Trickett Property" the club had bought from another party.
In its appeal, the club argued Solka's circuit court ruling erred in holding that the road commission's abandonment of the road was invalid.
Solka found the petition to abandon the road was not signed by seven landowners, required notice was not given and an approved road commission resolution failed to include mandated "best interest of the public" language.
"The attempted abandonment failed by reason of substantial noncompliance with the statute," Solka ruled.
"The trial court granted summary disposition to the road commission, declaring that its abandonment was ineffective," the appellate court ruling stated. "It concluded that, given that the road commission did not comply with the statutory requirements, it did not abandon the road and title never passed to (the) Huron Mountain Club. Because title did not pass, the court dismissed HMC's quiet title, takings and due process claims."
Among its arguments on appeal, the club contended the lower court erred in concluding the abandonment petition needed seven or more landowners signatures, even though the club was the sole owner of the land situated next to the road.
The club could appeal the decision to the Michigan Supreme Court
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.