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Brow Trail Road initiative declined by majority MCC board vote

Posted on Friday, May 31, 2024 at 2:18 pm

LACIE SILVA

Editor

Pascal Thurman addressed the board to discuss the Brow Trace Road during the meeting, mentioning that he had spoken with Attorney Gouger earlier in the day about the issue. Thurman explained that they had signed paperwork to widen the road to a 50-foot right of way, believing initially it was a 40-foot right of way. However, upon further clarification from Attorney Gouger, it was revealed that the right of way was only 20 feet wide, rendering the signed documents invalid. Thurman emphasized that adjustments would need to be made, requiring 15 feet on each side of the road instead. Additionally, Attorney Gouger explained that the amount of property required on each side of the road depended on the location of the water line, indicating that most of the line ran along the left-hand side through Signal Mountain, necessitating 30 feet on the right-hand side. Thurman sought confirmation from Attorney Gouger regarding these details.

Attorney Gouger responded to Thurman’s concerns, explaining that the easement for the water line will not belong to the county. Gouger further advised that these are private water systems and water lines are separate entities, so whatever purpose they serve will be distinct from the road right of way. He further reiterated and clarified that, as they had discussed earlier on the phone, there have been no conversations regarding altering the right of way for Big Fork Road, nor any plans to bind it or make any other modifications. The sole focus has been on the Brow Trail, extending from Big Fork up to Sequatchie County.

Pam Burkey, speaking before the board, expressed her concerns regarding the ongoing discussions surrounding the Brow Trail Road. She sought clarification to ensure she was addressing the correct issue, particularly concerning eminent domain and the lack of communication from property owners regarding access to the road and potential changes to its composition. Burkey highlighted her unease with the situation, emphasizing the discrepancy between the county’s usual stance on roads that don’t meet specifications and the current proposal to have the county and its taxpayers bear the cost of upgrading the road to meet those standards, which she found unfair and unjust.

Burkey further expressed her concerns about the implications of using eminent domain, emphasizing the need for transparency and open communication with all county residents affected by such decisions. She highlighted the county’s reluctance to take on the financial responsibilities of maintaining public roads, noting that while property owners may pay taxes on these roads, the county often refrains from assuming maintenance responsibilities. Furthermore, Burkey stressed the importance of ensuring that decision-makers maintain a clear distance from the affected properties to avoid conflicts of interest. She urged for thorough discussions and transparency when considering the use of eminent domain, emphasizing the seriousness of the matter and the need for careful consideration before taking any action.

Commissioner Morrison provided an update on Brow Trail Road, addressing what he perceived as misinformation surrounding the project. He emphasized the need for an alternate route for residents on the north end of Marion County, particularly considering the potential hazards and inconveniences posed by road closures along Suck Creek. Morrison clarified that the intention was not to convert the road into a major thoroughfare but rather to establish it as a county road for emergency access. He highlighted the distinction between public and private roads, noting that public roads do not need to meet specific specifications to become county roads. Morrison expressed confidence in the attorney’s efforts to secure deeds of dedication from approximately 70 property owners along Brow Trail Road.

He reiterated that the project did not involve seeking funding or discussing road development, emphasizing the importance of proceeding step by step in the process. Morrison reiterated his commitment to providing emergency access and addressing community needs without personal interests or financial considerations influencing the decision-making process.

Commissioner Morrison outlined the initial steps required for Brow Trail Road to become a county road, emphasizing the need to secure approval before addressing funding options. Morrison highlighted the potential benefits for property owners along the proposed 1.7-mile route, suggesting that improved road infrastructure could significantly increase property values in the area. However, his primary concern was ensuring emergency access for residents of the north end of Marion County and providing an alternative route for those affected by potential road closures on Signal Mountain. He stressed that the project would not impact the current Big Fork Road and had garnered no opposition since discussions began around October 2022. Despite recent inquiries from individuals not directly affected by the project, Morrison remained focused on addressing the needs of his constituents and facilitating safe transportation options in the region.

Moreover, Commissioner Morrison expressed confidence in the potential benefits of connecting Highway 27 to US-127, emphasizing the availability of funding once this connection is established. He noted that the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) is aware of the deteriorating condition of Sub Creek Mountain, which poses safety concerns for travelers. Morrison highlighted the importance of providing alternative routes for residents, particularly in emergency situations and when the mountain is closed. He clarified that the project’s aim is not to construct a new road or initiate development but rather to ensure accessibility for individuals commuting to work and offer peace of mind to those living in Sub Creek. Additionally, Morrison underscored the significance of this initiative for the local school system, which relies on reliable transportation routes for its students.

Commissioner Morrison addressed Mr. Reeves, acknowledging the inconvenience faced by students due to the lengthy bus routes through Sequatchie County and Hamilton County. He emphasized the need for accessible transportation routes, particularly for families with preschoolers relying on school buses. Morrison clarified that his proposal, initiated 14 months prior, aimed to provide a more direct route for buses, ambulances, and commuters, offering assistance to the community. He highlighted the widespread support for the initiative, with 70 out of 74 individuals expressing approval.

Commissioner Morrison expressed frustration regarding the remaining four property owners who have not signed the necessary documents for the Brow Trail Road project. He noted that two of these individuals could not be contacted, while the other two do not reside in the state and have no intention of visiting the property they inherited. Morrison criticized their reluctance to cooperate, describing it as greedy and selfish. Despite his disagreement with their stance, he acknowledged their legal right to withhold consent. However, he emphasized the negative impact of their decision on the residents of Marion County. Morrison highlighted that the situation had persisted for 14 months, causing delays in the project’s progress.

Finally, Commissioner Morrison called Brian Hood to speak to the board regarding estimates for the work to be done to bring the road to specified codes as related in previous meetings. Hood advised the board of his experience working for the Georgia Department of Transportation, as well as the departments of South Carolina and Tennessee. In reference to his submitted estimates to Attorney Gouger, he advised the board that he estimated the costs to be between $1.6 million and $2.5 million. He explained that the below national average $1.6 million was according to his experience with TDOT, and that his own estimate was at $2.5 million.

Commissioner Morrison clarified before Hood was dismissed that he was not a resident or property owner of Brow Trail Road, solidifying his unbiased estimates before the board.

In the end Commissioner Morrison asked the board to proceed with his motion to accept the 1.7 mile stretch of Brow Trail Road as a county road. To which he was seconded in his motion. Commissioners Abbott, Adkins, Brandt, Campbell, Franklin, Thompson and VanAllman and Chairperson Mason all voted to decline the motion. Commissioners Hargis, Morrison, Nunley, and Rollins voted yes. In this vote of 8 to 4 the motion did not pass.

The Marion Tribune – May 2, 2024