LISBON - Columbiana County commissioners voted to officially close an undeveloped section of road in St. Clair Township, which was met immediately with the promise of legal action from an opponent.
Commissioners granted the petition to close the disputed section of Moore Road at Wednesday's meeting, and immediately afterwards Charles Bramel presented them with a copy of a lawsuit he and his wife intended to file appealing the decision.
Bramel said they were doing so reluctantly but commissioners left them no choice by failing to throw out the petition to close the disputed section of Moore Road.
"We really weren't anticipating this, but it was just in case," Bramel said of the lawsuit, which he prepared himself. Bramel said it is his understanding any appeal had to be filed within 24 hours of the decision, which is why he was prepared to act.
Bramel and his wife went immediately afterwards to file their appeal but were told by a deputy clerk in the clerk of court's office the document would have to be redrafted in a proper format before it could be accepted.
For instance, besides Bramel and his wife Laura, the other listed plaintiffs are Chester Channels, Terri Mastel, Jake and Katrina Rodgers and Anne Conkel. The clerk told Bramel since his wife was filing the appeal and not an attorney, she could only represent herself and no one else.
Bramel went home and returned with a revised appeal document to file in which he and his wife were listed as the only plaintiffs and as the ones filing the appeal. He said their attorney will take over representing them after the appeal is filed.
The dispute is over a 2,676-foot section of Moore Road, which exists on paper but was never opened or used as a road. The 30-foot wide undeveloped section passes through a farm field before joining the driveway of David McCoy on Bell School Road.
Bramel and his wife moved to Moore Road in 2012 and began using the path when horseback riding to get to Bell School Road and then Ware Road, which provides them access to the bridle trails at Beaver Creek State Park. This created friction with the property owners along the undeveloped section of road.
The dispute was first brought before St. Clair Township trustees, who in March determined the undeveloped section had been deeded to the township in 1937 for road purposes but was never officially opened or developed as part of Moore Road. This ruling prompted the property owners on both sides of the undeveloped road to file a petition with commissioners requesting it be closed.
Commissioners Mike Halleck and Tim Weigle voted to approve the road closing. The third commissioner, Jim Hoppel, was on vacation but he recused himself from the proceedings because his niece was one of the petitioners.
The 30-foot wide strip of land will now be divided among the property owners unless there is a court order stopping this from being done.
Mrs. Bramel, in her appeal, said the decision leaves the plaintiffs "landlocked" in terms of access to Beaver Creek State Park. Mr. Bramel maintains the 30-foot strip of land is a public easement and not a road.
"It's crazy they (commissioners) would choose to vacate something that doesn't exist," he said.
The Bramels say they are trying to start a horse-riding therapy program for military veterans using the state park's bridle trails, and being unable to access Bell School Road prevents them from doing so safely.
"We just want this resolved. We can't operate the (therapy program) riding along Sprucevale Road," he said.