Lawsuit filed over Herron Lane

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By Calen McKinney

Two Elk Horn residents have filed suit against Taylor County Fiscal Court and are asking a judge to settle a controversy over whether their road is actually a County road.

Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers and magistrates James Jones, Milford Lowe, Ed Gorin, John Gaines, Marshall Caulk and Richard Phillips have answered the lawsuit and are also asking a judge to decide the issue.

Local attorney Rodger Cox filed the complaint in Taylor Circuit Court on Friday, Oct. 26 on behalf of Lester and Martha Herron of Gaddis Ridge Road.

The suit names Rogers, all six magistrates and Ethyl Cox, another Gaddis Ridge Road resident. According to the Herrons' complaint, Cox is a real estate owner who owns property that joins the Herrons'.

The complaint states that a controversy exists over whether Herron Lane, the road on which the Herrons live, is in the County road system and the placement of a mailbox on the Herron property.

"[The] plaintiffs have been accused of blocking a County road with their mailbox," the complaint states. "Persons with no legitimate reason have driven on and parked on the road that leads from Gaddis Ridge Road to the Herron house.

"Signs have been placed at the entrance to the road that leads from Gaddis Ridge Road to the Herron house naming it 'Herron Lane' and giving the impression that it is a public road.

"The problem has been exacerbated by the fact that the Fiscal Court paved a portion of the road that leads from Gaddis Ridge Road to the Herron house apparently by mistake thinking the road was 'Herron Road,' which is a County road in another part of the County."

The complaint states the Herrons allege that Herron Lane is not a County road and they are the only people who live on the road.

According to the complaint, the Herrons made a formal request to Taylor Fiscal Court to either declare that Herron Lane is not a County road or remove the road from the County road system.

"The Taylor Fiscal Court has refused to do either thing," the complaint states.

The complaint states that a County road is one that has been formally accepted by the Fiscal Court as part of the County road system.

"The road in question has not been formally accepted by Fiscal Court and also is not a public road in the first place, so it is not a County road," the complaint states.

"In the alternative, the road from Gaddis Ridge Road to the Herron house should be 'deemed' discontinued under [Kentucky law]."

County Attorney Craig Cox filed an answer and counterclaim to the Herron's complaint on Thursday.

In the answer, he states that the defendants say the Fiscal Court adopted a map of all County roads in 1991. Herron Lane is included in that map.

The Fiscal Court spent more than $13,000 in 2005 to blacktop the road, according to the answer.

"Plaintiffs admit that there is apparently a controversy as evidenced by the [Herrons'] complaint as to whether this road is or is not a County road," the answer states. "Plaintiffs admit that the [Circuit] Court should make a declaration of the status of this road as a County road on the County maintenance system."

The counterclaim states that, if the Court determines that Herron Lane is not a County road and was not a County road when it was blacktopped, the Herrons have "unjustly received the benefit of substantial improvement to their property at the expense of the County and/or the taxpayers of Taylor County."

If the Court rules that Herron Lane is not a County road, according to the counterclaim, the Fiscal Court is entitled to recover the value of those improvements.

The Herrons are asking for a declaratory judgment ruling that Herron Lane is not a County road. They are also asking for an injunction prohibiting Taylor Fiscal Court from erecting signs giving the impression that the road is a County road.

Rogers and the magistrates are asking that the Herrons' complaint be dismissed and the Circuit Court judge make a declaration as to the status of Herron Lane.

Craig Cox declined to comment for this story except to say that Ethyl Cox was likely named in the Herrons' complaint because her property borders the road and the plaintiff may have felt the Circuit Court couldn't proceed without all parties with any potential interest being included in the suit.

Magistrates have discussed the issue of Herron Lane at numerous Fiscal Court meetings this year after resident David Salyers addressed the Court several times about the Herrons' mailbox being in the middle of the road.

The Court last discussed the issue in October.

At several recent meetings, Rogers asked if any of the six magistrates would like to make a motion to remove Herron Lane from the County road system. None of them did.

Rodger Cox attended the Court's October meeting and told magistrates that his understanding of Kentucky law tells him that a road can't be taken out of a County road system without a motion made by a magistrate.

After the Court's August meeting, Rogers said, "I hate it that [the Court] didn't come up with something.

"I just hate it for all parties," he said. "This is not [the way] to make growth for the County, any kind of litigation like this."

On Friday, Rogers said he didn't know all of the details of the lawsuit, only that the road in question was included on a map approved by members of the Fiscal Court in 1991.

According to the Taylor Circuit Clerk's office, Circuit Court Judge Doughlas M. George has been assigned to the case.

Rodger Cox did not return a phone call from the News-Journal office. Attempts to reach Ethyl Cox were unsuccessful.

- A lawsuit presents only one side of a case. The News-Journal will not publish a lawsuit until an answer to an initial complaint has been filed in order to be fair to all parties.

- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com.