Supervisors handle neighborly dispute over flower bed
A Solomon-like solution in a dispute between two neighbors over a raised flowerbed planted in the right-of-way in the New Castle subdivision is where the Madison County Board of Supervisors found themselves last week.
Ralph Barnes of Dover Lane in New Castle brought the matter before the board during the concerned citizens portion of their May 17 meeting.
During the session that spanned nearly an hour, Barnes, president of ADCAMP Inc., which holds the county’s $1.8 million road resurfacing contract, complained that his neighbor, Bob Piazza’s flowerbed that is bounded by crossties stacked two high, was planted in the county’s right-of-way and is a danger to passing motorists.
“Those crossties are 12-inches higher than the existing asphalt roadway,” Barnes said. “They are 6-inches from the edge of the roadway.”
Piazza said he built the flowerbed to keep Barnes from parking in front of his house.
Barnes said the other side of the roadway has a pipe that has caved and the ground is eroded.
“My concern is if somebody comes through there and hits these crossties there is a possibility that they could run into this culvert that is down there,” Barnes said. “I just ask that y’all look at this situation and I think it is a safety hazard to the neighborhood.”
Barnes also raised the question of who would be to blame if an accident occurred due to the crossties since the right-of-way is owned by the county.
“These crossties are in the area to an adjacent lot that I own that is only about 45 feet length along the edge of the road and if somebody parks in the area next to the area where my lot is there have been some problems with asking someone to move,” Barnes said. “I think on the county right of way it is the county and I don’t know whether the property owners have the right to tell someone to move their vehicles off for a short period of time. That is just my concern.”
After Barnes finished his portion, Piazza, a retired colonel with the Mississippi Army National Guard and a retired engineer from the U.S. Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg who has owned his property in the neighborhood for 28 years, took the lectern and handed out a packet of information to supervisors before beginning his presentation.
“That is what I was trying to do,” Piazza said. “That was my intent. That is my property and I felt like I was within my rights to do so.”
Piazza said he was surprised when the county sent attorney Mike Espy and County Administrator Shelton Vance out to assess the flowerbed.
Piazza said that after the initial complaint about his flowerbed on county right-of-way he drove around the entire neighborhood of New Castle and Greystone.
“I counted all of the flowerbeds that were within the right-of-way,” Piazza said. “… There are 48 flowerbeds within the right of way in those areas. They have got all kinds of covering from stone to brick to steel and everything else. There are 48 mailboxes on the road. Butting up against the roads throughout the whole subdivision.”
Piazza summed up his case saying he does not want Barnes, whose property next to his and featuring a boat pier and boatshed, or anyone else, parking in front of his house.
“I guess the board should feel like King Solomon of the Old Testament,” Espy said to the board after Piazza finished. “You are actually being asked to resolve a dispute between neighbors.”
Espy said Piazza is correct that many properties are encroaching on county right of way with similar structures.
“(Highway) 463 going toward Dover Lane there are multiple, multiple, multiple encroachments on the right of way,” Espy said. “There are brick mailboxes. There are planters some are elevated, some are not and the street is so narrow, there are multiple encroachments on the right of way.”
Espy conceded the crossties could pose a safety hazard.
“As your lawyer, I’d be worried about an issue of selective enforcement,” Espy said. “Who else in New Castle would come before you asking you to remove an encroachment on a county right of way because there are several? If you do something for one you may have to do something for those who come later.”
Espy recommended asking Piazza, who had previously agreed to do so, to remove the second level of crossties to make the flowerbed less of a safety hazard.
Karl Banks, president of the Board of Supervisors, said it would be best if the neighbors could work it out among themselves.
“I don’t like the reason why we are here,” Banks said. “We have the right to tell him to move the crossties. I think he has the right to say, ‘I don’t want this unknown car parked in front of my house.’…”
District 2 Supervisor Trey Baxter, whose district includes the New Castle subdivision, moved to take Espy’s recommendation for Piazza to lower the crossties and leave everything else as-is.
All approved the motion that was seconded by District 3 Supervisor Gerald Steen.