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Abandoning seasonal roads is possible — but still tricky

SCHOOLCRAFT TOWNSHIP – When Gerald Lamppa purchased a 60-acre Traprock Valley parcel from his mother in 1971, he knew there was a road on it that the Houghton County Road Commission claimed was in its seasonal road system, and along with the road, 33 feet of right-of-way on the side of the property owned by Lamppa.

Over the years, Lamppa has made several attempts to block the road, but as a result of state laws, and complaints from local residents who use the road, the Road Commission has been compelled to remove the obstructions. Lamppa has found himself in court on a number of occasions. At the present time, the road, County Road S-22A, also known as Pork and Bean Camp Road, still remains in the Houghton County seasonal road system, and it is illegal for Lamppa to obstruct it.

A letter sent to Kevin Harju, Houghton County Road Commission engineer, in October 2010 by attorney Paul Tomasi, reads, in part: “(T)he commission has the obligation to maintain certified public roadways in a manner reasonable access to the general public. They cannot permit any one person or group of persons to block it. (It) must remain open for use by the entire public.”

Harju said there is a way the road can be turned over to private ownership.

“He (Lamppa) came to one of our meetings way back in 2010,” Harju said. “That was prior to removing the first gate. What we told him is if you can get along with your neighbors and say, ‘Hey we want this road abandoned,’ and you sign a petition for abandonment, we’ll sign it immediately. We’ll give you the road.”

The road is only four-tenths of a mile long. But, the road adjoins the properties of two other land holders, so all three owners would need to sign the petition of abandonment.

Even should the petition be signed and agreed upon by the Road Commission, that might not be the end of the problems. There is still another issue.

“There is a power line in there,” said Harju. “By law, if we get a petition to abandon, we can abandon the roadway, but we have to provide that there is an easement that remains in place for any existing utility. So, that easement would have to be maintained.”

Another obstacle might be that not all three property owners want the road abandoned, which was raised when a television news outlet broadcasted a story on the road dispute.

“There are other residents whose property adjoins County Road S-22A who do not want the road abandoned,” Harju said. “One of the residents whose property adjoins called the road commission and said he would like the road kept just as it is.”

The reason for not wanting the road abandoned is because it is also an easement.

“He doesn’t want the road abandoned,” Harju said. “He said he may split his parcel and sell part of it, but if there isn’t a public road to it, he can’t sell it.”

While the road commission is under state-mandated obligations regarding public roads, Harju emphasized the position of the road commission.

“Like we’ve said, if those property owners, one of them being Mr. Lamppa, can work something out, and would sign a petition, we would be more than willing to release (the road),” he said.