Paris eyes litigation over gravel pit right-of-way

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PARIS — The Board of Selectmen is considering legal action against a landowner who has asserted that he can block certain uses of a right-of-way through his land.

At a special meeting Monday night, board members discussed whether they should direct law firm Bernstein Shur to look into the town’s options with regard to its right of way through the land of David Everett, owner of E.C.I. Materials. There was no vote.

After a vote to bar ATVs from the right of way at the Jan. 23 meeting failed, Everett posted a sign barring ATVs, motorcycles, bicycles and hunting on the road through his property.

At the Jan. 23 meeting, Selectman Ted Kurtz said Everett has no right to regulate use of the right of way, which connects High Street to the town’s gravel pit.

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Everett started blocking ATV access months ago after he and the town split the cost of a private railroad crossing with the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad, which owns the tracks. The agreement states that the crossing can be used only for gravel pit use.

On Jan. 9, Everett told the board he was concerned he would be held liable if someone was injured while crossing the tracks without the railroad company’s authorization. At that meeting, he agreed to take down signs barring ATVs. Last week, Chairman Robert Kirchherr saw the signs were back up and sent photos of the signs to other board members.

Monday’s meeting was meant to take place in executive session. Kirchherr said the discussion could turn into one about a possible lawsuit. Selectmen voted 4-1 to have an open dialogue with Bernstein Shur attorney Joel Moser. Selectman Jean Smart said the discussion should take place at next week’s meeting.

Moser said it was too early to give a legal position on the town’s rights, but said his firm could conduct research if directed to do so. Kurtz prodded Moser for more specific advice, and read excerpts from the deed.

About a dozen people attended the meeting, including several members of the X-Tra Mile ATV club. Club members said the town should push harder on Everett rather than spend money consulting with attorneys.

“The select board has no backbone,” ATV club Vice President Cliff Goodwin said. “It’s absolutely ludicrous.” The railroad crossing is part of the ATV club’s trail system.

Goodwin said the club had communicated with the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad and had a certified letter from the company saying they may consider a recreational railroad crossing “some distance” from the gravel pit crossing.

Selectmen will discuss the issue at the Feb. 13 board meeting, and will vote on whether to direct Bernstein Shur to look further into the matter.

treaves@sunjournal.com

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