Home News Local News Landowners’ dispute results in tied road vote

Landowners’ dispute results in tied road vote

Timothy Jennings, seen at a prior Chaves County Board of Commissioners meeting, has expressed his opposition to a road closure near him a few times. (Daily Record File Photo)

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A county road will remain open to the public after a dispute about closing it between two prominent landowners led to a tied vote Thursday among four members of the Chaves County Board of Commissioners. The fifth commissioner recused himself.

The final vote on 2020 road applications occurred during the regular monthly meeting of the commissioners at the Chaves County Administrative Center.

After applications are made by the public or county Road Department staff for road adoptions, road maintenance changes or road vacations, also known as road closures, a long process ensues. It involves viewing of all roads and recommendations by an appointed group of citizens, called freeholders; a public hearing where the people can tell commissioners their thoughts on the applications; a tour of all the roads in question by commissioners; and the commissioners’ final vote.

The commissioners voted on 13 applications, with one of two vacation requests made by Adelante Farms LLC and the Barbe family ending in the tied vote, which means its status as a public county road will not change.

Tim Jennings, a former state senator, had opposed the closure of a portion of East Grand Plains Road near Oasis Road. He said previous owners had allowed access for many decades by giving the Jennings family an unofficial easement to his family’s property.

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“We have had access to this land for over 70 years and this would completely landlock us from access to the property except by the river,” Jennings said. “When you close the road on the west side of the (Hagerman) canal, that means for me to get any access to that I would have to build a bridge over the canal.”

He said the property could lose value if the family decided to sell the land. He added that a draft of a legal agreement drawn up by Adelante Farms and the Barbe family that would have granted an easement had conditions attached, such as not using firearms without permission, that the Jennings questioned.

Ken Barbe, president of Adelante Farms, told commissioners that the Jennings’ property is already landlocked, requiring access to their property by crossing his. He said he would commit to ensuring that the Jennings had continued access, should the commissioners vote to close it.

“We do not have any intention of denying you access,” Barbe said. “We are just changing the access point where he accesses our property about 1,700 feet.”

He said that the Jennings would receive codes or keys for locks and added that Tim Jennings was the one who asked for a legal agreement and did not forward any written recommendations for changes after receiving the draft that had been provided.

“We are trying to be good neighbors and we are not intending to do anything to infringe on his rights,” Barbe said.

A motion to table the matter failed without receiving a second. Then Commissioners Jeff Bilberry and Dara Dana voted for closure, while Commissioners Richard Taylor and Will Cavin voted against. Commissioner T. Calder Ezzell Jr. abstained from discussion and voting, saying that his law firm had some involvement with the situation.

The other 12 applications that involved two road adoptions, four road maintenance changes and six road closures passed unanimously.

Commissioners also voted to approve their interim fiscal year 2022 budget that had been reviewed at a workshop a week earlier and approved awarding a bid for legal services to Stanton Riggs, the former county manager and county attorney. The exact terms of that contract will be voted on by commissioners during a future meeting.

Commissioners also appointed two new members to the Chaves County Planning and Zoning Commission, Valli West and Brian Archuleta, following the resignations of Harold Hobson and Melodi Salas. The new members will join Dale Rogers, Andrew Morley and Mark Lewis.

Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 351, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.

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Lisa Dunlap is a general assignment reporter for the Roswell Daily Record.