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Seyfarth v. Adams County Board of Supervisors

Supreme Court of Mississippi

April 18, 2019

JOHN T. SEYFARTH, JR.
v.
ADAMS COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS

          DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/08/2018

          ADAMS COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. HON. FORREST A. JOHNSON, JR. JUDGE.

          TRIAL COURT ATTORNEYS: PAUL ANDERSON KOERBER SCOTT FLETCHER SLOVER

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLANT: PAUL ANDERSON KOERBER

          ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE: SCOTT FLETCHER SLOVER

          BEFORE KING, P.J., COLEMAN AND BEAM, JJ.

          KING, PRESIDING JUSTICE

         ¶1. The Adams County Board of Supervisors (Board) designated Mount Airy Plantation Road as a public road, placing it on the official county road register in 2000. John Seyfarth petitioned the Board to abandon the portion of the road that dead ends into his property. He alleged that people were using the road to reach his property and trespass on it. The Board declined to abandon the road, denied Seyfarth's request for damages, and did not address his requests that the Board take action to abate the nuisances he experienced. Seyfarth appealed to the circuit court, which affirmed the Board's decisions not to abandon the road and not to award damages. But the circuit court ordered the Board to reasonably abate any nuisances to Seyfarth. Seyfarth appeals the circuit court's ruling to affirm the Board's decision not to abandon the road and not to award damages, and the Board cross-appeals the order that it abate any nuisances. Because Seyfarth has no remedy on the record before this Court, this Court affirms the circuit court's judgment affirming the Board's decisions declining to abandon the road and declining to award damages. But because, on this record, the Board has no legal authority to abate any nuisance in the manners suggested, this Court reverses and renders the circuit court's order mandating that the Board abate any nuisance.

         FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         ¶2. In 1998, the Legislature passed a law that required each county board of supervisors to prepare and adopt an official map designating all public roads on the county road system on or before July 1, 2000. Miss. Code Ann. § 65-7-4 (Rev. 2012). The Legislature's stated intent was that the official record "shall include all public roads that the board of supervisors determines, consistent with fact, as of July 1, 2000, or such date the initial official record is adopted, are laid out and open according to law." Miss. Code Ann. § 65-7-4(6) (Rev. 2012). The Legislature further explained that the legislative intent for the proceedings and public hearing for the initial adoption of the roads

are not intended to lay out, open, designate or otherwise establish new public roads, but to document and record existing roads which are, at the time of the initial adoption of said map and register, adjudicated by the board, consistent with fact, to be public roads by dedication, under the methods provided by statute, or by prescription and required by public convenience and necessity.

Miss. Code Ann. § 65-7-4.1 (Rev. 2012). On May 8, 2000, the Adams County Board of Supervisors published notice that a hearing would occur on June 5, 2000, regarding the official county road system registry, as required by statute. See Miss. Code Ann. § 65-7-4(3) (Rev. 2012). The road registry designated which county roads were public and which were private. The hearing occurred on June 5, 2000, and the Board approved the designations on June 19, 2000. Mount Airy Plantation Road, a road .58 miles long, was included as a public road on the designation.

         ¶3. Mount Airy Plantation Road dead ends into property owned by Seyfarth. The portion that traverses Seyfarth's land provides access to only one other property, and that property has a deeded perpetual easement and right-of-way over the portion of the road that must be used to access it. Seyfarth alleged that the public's use of the portion of the road that dead ends onto his property has created a nuisance. Deer guts were being dumped on his property, hunters have trespassed and even constructed deer stands on Seyfarth's property, and his cattle have been shot and injured.

         ¶4. In March 2014, Seyfarth twice approached the Board and asked that a portion of Mount Airy Plantation Road be removed from the county road system. Also in March 2014, several residents and landowners along Mount Airy Plantation Road signed a petition asking the Board to keep the road public.[1] On July 18, 2016, Seyfarth appeared before the Board and requested that the Board abandon the portion of Mount Airy Plantation Road that encroaches on his property, declare a variance restricting public use of the portion of the road, take action to abate the nuisances to Seyfarth's property caused by the road, and/or provide just compensation to Seyfarth for the encroachment on his property. There was testimony that the road had been maintained by the general public since the 1980s. Moreover, the other landowner using the road objected to its abandonment. The Board declined to abandon the portion of the road at issue, and it found that Seyfarth's request for damages was untimely. Seyfarth filed a Petition for Bill of Exceptions and Other Relief in the Adams County Circuit Court, appealing the Board's decision. The circuit court affirmed the Board's decisions not to abandon the portion of the road and not to award damages. However, the ...


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