A heated debate about a roadway vacation petition took up most of Tuesday’s Kosciusko County Commissioners meeting.
At issue was a vacation of public ways in Prairie Township, near Hoffman Lake. The petitioners, William and Beverly Long, own Hoffman Lake Campground, located off CR 300 North in Warsaw. The couple petitioned to vacate two public ways, both of which are located on the north side of CR 300 North.
Kosciusko County Area Planning Commission voted 5-2-1 not to vacate the public ways at its meeting Feb. 5.
The Longs have also filed a lawsuit in Kosciusko Circuit Court seeking to claim title to the two tracts. The couple has owned and maintained the campground for 44 years and assumed they owned the property where the right-of-way is located.
The Longs attorney, Christopher Walter, said the most relevant issue is hindering the public ways and access to the lake. After hearing concerns, the Longs amended their request. Walter said his clients do not have a problem reaching a compromise if the road is vacated. The Longs son, Michael, said the property has been in the family for three generations.
“We have tried to compromise,” he said. It wasn’t until recently a survey discovered the public ways on the campground. He said a fence and parking needs to be addressed. “It would alleviate a lot of problems.”
Attorney Richard Helm, who represents several remonstrators living in Lakeview Park subdivision argued, “The law makes no provisions for private persons to lay claim to public areas.”
Helm said the Longs don’t have “squatter’s rights” and don’t pay taxes on the property. “They can’t just take over a street that is a public right-of-way,” Helm said.
Despite also hearing from several remonstrators for close to 45 minutes, two of the commissioners voted to vacate both public ways. Commissioner Ron Truex abstained from voting, while commissioners Bob Conley and Brad Jackson made a motion to vacate.
The motion was made to vacate the public ways 7 feet from an existing trailer, from CR 300 North to the water’s edge, then to the north of the property. The vacation request was approved with stipulations, which are: the Longs must pay taxes on the two tracts for the past 44 years, install no parking signs along CR 300 North, update the property survey and install a fence around the land in question.
In other news, the board approved Scott Tilden, of the county highway department, to obtain quotes for three new pickup trucks. Tilden will make a recommendation at the next commissioners meeting.
Bob Bishop, president of Kosciusko County Farm Bureau, came before the board to introduce himself and “be in touch with commissioners.” Bishop said there are 4,000 members in the county and, he said, agriculture is very important in Kosciusko County. Bishop said he wants to work closely with commissioners should any agricultural issues arise.
Commissioners are president Jackson, Truex and Conley. The next meeting is at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 11.