LTCC Meeting Minutes – 27-Apr-2017

Minutes from the Lima Township Conservation Coalition ( LTCC ) Community Meeting held Thursday, April 27, 2017, 7:00 p.m., Lima Township Hall ( 11452 Jackson Road )

Opening Remarks

The LTCC was created as a grass-roots organization of local residents concerned about the many problems that would result from the proposed non-motorized pathway along Dexter-Chelsea Road.
The LTCC is NOT AT ALL opposed to lawful bicycle riding; in fact, many of our strongest supporters enjoy bicycling where safe and appropriate.
The LTCC’s primary goal is to help preserve the best elements of life in our community–elements that would be degraded or destroyed by this proposed path.
The LTCC’s main concerns about the proposed path involve property rights, safety, and environmental impact.
The main purpose of tonight’s meeting is threefold:

  • To inform residents about what we’ve learned about this process thus far
  • To answer questions and seek input from all of you
  • To seek active support from the residents and involvement in the LTCC organization

Update on Communication with Washtenaw County Road Commission

Four main topics of discussion with the Washtenaw County Road Commission

  • Safety
  • Timeline
  • Legal costs
  • Process

Main point of contact Roy Townsend, Managing Director

Safety

To date this topic has been acknowledged but deferred, pending their legal opinion of Boland Corridor land ownership. In no point in the detailed discussions has it been indicated if this is a non-starter.
Some of our concerns:

  • The right of way between cyclists & vehicles at the ~ 50 driveway / bike path intersections. Example: West bound
    motorist turn left into driveway, unsighted by passing traffic, two way bike traffic. We believe there is a high risk of
    contact and injury, and cyclists are not insured.
  • The minimum distance between stop signs & yields; length of vehicle-trailer combo (agriculture / rural hobbyist)
    when turning into a driveway, and a bike is in the path ( will it be safe to stop with the trailer still blocking the road ? )
  • The HWPI has indicated the path might use the Dexter-Chelsea Right-of-Way 33’ easement to avoid Boland
    Corridor obstacles. This puts westbound cyclists next to and opposing eastbound motorists.
  • The proposed Dexter-Chelsea crossing is in a 55mph passing zone. The speed limit is seldom adhered to in that
    area.

Timeline

  • Last info on this about 1 week ago and they stated that no news was expected for 60-90 days, it could be as much as 6 months. The WCR have legal counsel on retainer. They are still researching the situation, as are the Washtenaw County legal counsel.
  • We are trying to strike balance between staying informed vs. bugging them with frequent questions (They have over 300 projects & interface with 20 Townships)

Legal Costs

  • We have been wondering how much all this legal research costing the county ? (Our taxpayer money, right ?)
  • 1% of the revenue received from MDOT is to be spent on non-motorized projects. For 2017 that State money is $22M, so 1% is $220,00. In the 2017, WCR budgeted their planned legal expense as $120,000. Within that legal budget the cost of the Boland research was said to be ‘minimal’.
  • Jeff Hardcastle has shared with us that the HWPI legal research is costing his donors $275/hr per attorney. We are curious what the donors ( mainly local business owners) who are financially supporting HWPI think of that, considering the local residents that are negatively impacted by this proposal are their retail customers.

Process

What happens if WCR legal opinion is that the Boland Corridor ownership is defendable?

  • Contrary to how it is portrayed and publicly spoken of by HWPI, the WCR approval is only for an investigation.
  • The next step would be to discuss HWPI use of that land at a “working meeting”. These are open to the public and public comment/ input is sought. IF that working meeting agrees this proposed use of the land is in the best public / local resident interest, they will then make a recommendation to the WRC board.
  • The WRC Board would then review the proposal at their next mtg and vote on it. Our understanding is that the WRC Board meetings are not open to the public.
  • We have been assured by multiple people at the WCR that none of this is a quick process and there will be plenty of opportunity for resident input. Quite in contrast to the HWPI frequent pitch within the local community of the legal review being the “last hurdle”.

Facts Regarding the Boland Corridor Property

  • The Boland Corridor is a land conveyance established by William Boland in 1901. His intention was to build an electric railroad on the land. He negotiated the rights to the property with the individual land owners in a piecemeal fashion. Most of those negotiations included a 3 year reversion clause. Here is an example of the
    wording, taken directly from a deed from the South side of Dexter Chelsea Rd:
    “In case above described strip of land shall cease to be used for railway purposes for three consecutive years it shall revert to the owner of the land adjoining on the south.”
  • The land is not a disused railroad. No railroad was ever built or operated on the land
  • The Washtenaw County Road Commission has only approved that an investigation be made into the legal
    ownership rights of the land. There has not been a decision yet made to construct the path.

Public Comment / Questions

  • We need to get our viewpoint out to the community, as many people are not aware of the reality of what is being proposed
    1. The Boland Corridor is not an abandoned railroad
    2. The Boland Corridor is not an unused green space that is ripe for a nice bike path
  • One resident commented they were aware of two cases in which a fence was located incorrectly ( not located on the property line it was supposed to reside on ). The fence was there for 7 years, but a court ruled it did not have to be moved, regardless of where the legal property line was.
  • One resident commented that we should get the local TV news stations involved (Channel 7 news, for example). The general opinion on this was that it certainly was an option, but not right now. We should wait as long as possible before taking this sort of action. When we hear the legal opinion with regard to the property rights, we can revisit this suggestion.
  • One resident asked about taxes on the property. They believe they have been paying taxes on the portion of their land identified as part of the Boland Corridor. Based on what we know, and the legal opinion of a close collaborator, is that this does not matter either way in determining who owns a piece of land.
  • One resident commented that there is an actual abandoned railway that spans the length of Jackson Road. Why is this land not being considered for the path?
  • One resident asked if testimonials could be added to the website ( https://limaconservation.org/ ). We would like to encourage all residents to provide testimonials. Please send them to admin@limaconservation.org, and the site administrator will post them. We can keep them confidential, or you can use your name, this is your choice.
  • One resident asked if anyone had been approached by Comcast, or another company, and were subsequently paid by the company to use the land designated as the Boland Corridor for their commercial use ( to run cables, etc. ). This would imply that the research that company did showed that the land did not belong to the Road Commission. It would be useful to know what experiences each resident has had with previous transactions on the land.
  • One resident commented that if the legal opinion comes back in favor of the Washtenaw County Road Commission as the owner of the land, and the Parks and Recreation create a project, they will have the authority at that point to build the path. This means the residents will have to decide whether they want to take the case to court. There is also the possibility that Washtenaw County could condemn the land. In that case, they could use it as they pleased, and build the path regardless of what a court may say with respect to ownership. We believe that this is an unlikely scenario, as this would create a lot of friction between the county and its residents.

All of the ownership transactions with regard to the Boland Corridor are a matter of public record. Residents can research the history of the transactions on their property by going to the Washtenaw County Register of Deeds Office, or to their website https://rod.ewashtenaw.org/recorder/web/). From this site you can use their online services to access and print the records. You must Register with the site to use their service. The fees are $1.20 per page.

The Admin will post a tutorial of how to use the service on the LTCC website (http://limaconservation.org)

Click here to view Bike Path Petition