Justices rule on what makes a road public

By Steve Korris | Feb 28, 2008

CHARLESTON - It takes 10 years of public use to make a private road public, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals declared Feb. 27.

The Justices unanimously agreed that Second Avenue and Fifth Street in the Boone County town of Jeffrey belong to Gary Dickerson Sr., Gary Dickerson Jr. and Terrie Dickerson.

The Justices affirmed Circuit Judge Lee Schlagel Jr., who ruled that the Dickersons owned the avenue and the street.

The Court's unsigned opinion found no evidence that the public used the streets for 10 years or that the public provided for maintenance.

Ten neighbors sued the Dickersons in 2005, claiming public possession of Second Avenue.

They amended their complaint to include Fifth Street, alleging that the Dickersons had placed obstructions on it.

The Dickersons moved for summary judgment, which Schlaegel granted in 2006.

Schlaegel found no clear satisfactory evidence that any government agency accepted the roads from the Dickersons.

Patrick Cottrell of Charleston appealed on behalf of Michelle Ford, Robert Elkins, Glendyne Elkins, Marsha Akers, Terry Ball, Brenda Ball, Tina Akers, Nina Meddings, Paul Akers and Lewis Akers.
Benjamin Conaway of Madison represented the Dickersons.

The Supreme Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Jan. 22.

The Justices agreed that a road can become public in three ways.

First, government can take it by condemnation, compensating the owner.

Second, an owner can dedicate it for public use or can consent to such use.

Third, continuous public use accompanied by official recognition, such as working on it, can turn it public.

The Justices could not apply any of those principles.

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