By Naomi Hatch
The Taylor Town Council held a lengthy discussion regarding unused public rights of way Nov. 13. Though no action could be taken, the consensus of the council was that the town retain the property and allow property owners to use the rights of way.
Mayor Fay Hatch had asked that the item be placed on the agenda for discussion. It had been discussed June 3 and tabled until further study had been done by the staff.
“This is something brought up in the past on a couple of occasions, and we haven’t done anything with it or had a lot of discussion about it,” explained the mayor.
A map prepared by town staff showed the rights of way owned by the town that are not being used.
“Is there anything we want to do with those? Do we need to do anything with it or leave it alone?” asked the mayor.
“I personally would like to see the town keep it,” said Councilman Carl Cosper.
“I think we ought to keep people from fencing it off. It needs to be available to the town and the town should have the rights away if they’re ever needed,” said Councilman David Smith.
Councilman Gary Solomon said he understood that it didn’t matter where the rights of way had been fenced, nor how long, they belong to the town.
“There’s a lot of pasture that’s fenced and being used,” said Vice Mayor Shawn Palmer, noting that in 100 percent of what he had looked into, the adjoining property owners were paying taxes on the town’s rights of way.
During public comments, property owner Jared Hatch said that he would like to have access to the town rights of way near the Silver Creek. He noted that neither he nor the other property owners along the Silver Creek pay property taxes on town property.
“My personal opinion is, we want to keep these options open, the way it was written in the original survey by Jesse N. Smith, who wrote that changes should be done on an as needed basis,” said Palmer.
Councilman Jason Brubaker said he walked most of those properties that day, and some of the rights of ways would be considered more valuable than others.
“I was impressed they’re not little 40’ or 50’ rights of way, some are 100’ rights of way and I feel they’re important to the town,” said Brubaker.
“My personal feeling is that we should not just get rid of this property, because we may need it some day.”
Brubaker added that he felt that the town should give the neighboring property owners the opportunity to lease rights of way for $1 a year and move their fence, rather than have a no-man’s land.
The councilman suggested that if one neighbor wanted to use the right of way, the town should send a letter to the adjoining neighbors to see if they want to use it. If both parties wanted to use the land, divide it in the middle, and if not, let the one who requested permission lease it.
“I see having a big fight,” said the mayor.
“I like the suggestion, leave it alone,” said Solomon.
“Anything that is public property that we can get to, we’re willing to mow it,” said Town Manager Gus Lundberg.
Jared Hatch said that he was going to ask that this be on the agenda, noting, “Whatever you guys decide, it will affect me, along with my neighbors.” He said they are cutting down the elm trees and caring for the right of way, stating, “I’ve invested money in the right of way.”
“My guestimate is it will be 100 years before another road goes across the Silver Creek,” he continued, asking that they be able to purchase the rights of way because where he owns property the right of way is in the flood plain. He went on to say that if the town did need the property in the future the eminent domain process could be used.
David Hawes, spoke on behalf of his son Devin, who owned property where the right of way dead ends into a school, noting that they are maintaining it and keeping the weeds down. “He’s interested in acquiring it at fair market price,” said Hawes.
Donna Hancock Hall said that the green areas are what make Taylor unique and said that her family is paying property taxes on all of the 25 acres they own on the east side, including the rights of way.
“I don’t think anybody here has the idea we’re going to open up these rights of way,” said Mayor Hatch.
He asked former mayor Floyd Fuentes to give his opinion because he owns property on the Silver Creek.
“I feel the town needs to retain control of it, but let us use it,” said Fuentes, noting that a year and a half ago the town was talking about putting a sewer line through his field, which was OK with him. “I hate to see a community destroyed when it was laid out in squares.”
In other business, a $295,018.40 contract for the airport perimeter fence project was awarded to Liberty Fence, the low bidder on the project.
The town must now have approval from the Federal Aviation Agency and Arizona Department of Transportation to begin the project.
Lundberg explained that there were two choices for the council to make to comply with the new State Consolidated Election Law to hold an election that will affect the terms of Hatch, Palmer and Solomon.
The council could move the election to the fall of 2014, which would shorten their terms by six months, or bring the terms up for election in the fall of 2015, which would give them an extra 18 months on the council.
The council approved extending the election to the fall of 2015, with Mayor Hatch opposing.
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By Naomi Hatch