PARIS — The Oxford County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday to begin the process of taking a road in Mason Township by eminent domain.

After a meeting with the county’s lawyers, commissioners approved a motion “to authorize the administrator to retain an engineer, or a surveyor, to prepare a description of the property to be taken in Mason Township for purpose of creating a public road.”

Since 2009, a couple that owns property on both sides of Tyler Road has challenged the county’s claim to ownership. On March 14, after commissioners refused to enter mediation with them, Cameron Wake and Celina Adams filed a lawsuit to determine who owns the 2,086-foot portion of the road which runs through their property.

County Administrator Scott Cole said that while the commission was confident it could win the case, taking the road by eminent domain was the “quickest, cleanest” way of settling the matter. He said it would be cheaper for the county than a trial.

“That just doesn’t bear out,” Adams said Tuesday.

“If they have the proof that they have maintained this road, if they would even invest a similar amount of money to what my husband and I have invested to try to prove our contention on this, then it shouldn’t be a problem,” she said.

In 2009, the U.S. Forest Service bought a tract of land in Oxford County with plans for a timber sale beyond Adams’ and Wake’s property. The Oxford County Commission gave the Forest Service permission to widen and resurface Tyler Road, which leads to the newly-acquired land, in order to allow large logging trucks to get through.

The Kittery couple, who bought about 21.5 acres in Mason Township in 2005, resisted. Adams and Wake say the road is a right of way and they don’t mind the U.S. Forest Service or other residents using it for access. However, they remain opposed to widening and resurfacing work U.S. Forest Service officials say is necessary to allow access to the large trucks.

Adams and Wake paid for an investigation by Belding Survey LLC of Harrison, which found that their section of the road had last been maintained in 1959 or 1960 and by Maine law fit the requirements of statutory abandonment. In Maine, a road that hasn’t been maintained for 30 years is the private property of a landowner who owns both sides of the road.

Cole and the commissioners have maintained that when the U.S. Forest Service performed maintenance on the road in the early 1980s, they were working as agents of the county and that the work constitutes county maintenance.

At the commission’s March 15 meeting, several residents of Mason Township and surrounding areas attended to express their belief that Tyler Road is a public way. Many said they were concerned Wake and Adams would restrict access to the road.

The couple has maintained that the road is a public way and allow access for recreation and logging, but say they won’t allow any widening or resurfacing on the property.

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