Esky council OKs land transfer policy

ESCANABA – The Escanaba City Council approved a policy Thursday that outlines the procedure for the city giving up a public right-of-way and turning the land over to neighboring property owners under special circumstances.

Though the city has had authority to abandon right-of-way property under state and local statutes, no written policy and procedure were in place locally, explained City Manager Jim O’Toole at Thursday’s regular council meeting.

O’Toole said he has been working on drafting a written policy with City Engineer/Public Works Superintendent Bill Farrell and legal counsel following a recent request from a resident asking the city to close an alley and split the property with neighboring land owners.

The city has had very few such requests from property owners, with the most recent one being about six or seven years ago, recalled O’Toole.

Farrell told council that research was done to learn what other municipalities do so Escanaba could develop a local policy to give direction to property owners submitting requests.

The new written policy on the abandonment of right-of-ways, unanimously approved by council, outlines the process which begins with an application from the property owner. A petition regarding the request must be signed by all property owners abutting the right-of-way.

City officials review the request to determine if the right-of-way is needed for city purposes and if an abandonment of the land in question would meet all development, emergency access, and street construction rules and regulations.

Other factors considered, according to the policy, is if the abandonment would affect pedestrian or vehicle traffic, affect a public view, deprive other property owners, interfere with utility services, or affect public access to and from the water.

The city cannot abandon a right-of-way within 82.5 feet of a body of water, noted O’Toole.

The property owner submitting the abandonment request would be responsible for costs involved by the city for the paperwork and public notices, said O’Toole, adding this could amount to $250-$300 depending on the circumstances of each case.

Prior to the city approving a right-of-way abandonment request, council would determine if no substantial public service is served by the right-of-way or if the removal of the right-of-way is in the best interest of the city and the public.

The policy also includes the procedure for resubmitting requests which are not approved, 24 months after a denial.

In other business Thursday, council unanimously approved the city’s updated five-year community master plan, which serves as a vision for Escanaba’s future, said O’Toole.

The master plan is required by the state, he explained, adding that the revision includes public input received through surveys, public outreach sessions, and public hearings.

The master plan can be viewed on the city’s website at www.escanaba.org.