Suit filed to vacate Farnell Road

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, September 16, 2009

A lawsuit has been filed in the Pike County Circuit Court challenging the Pike County Commission’s decision to keep Farnell Road (Pike County Road 7704) that connects China Grove to Bullock County open to the public.

The plaintiffs in the case are Robert M. Pirnie, Leslie O’Gwyn Pirnie, Kelly Gray Dean, Jeffery Lamar Dean, Dennis Lee Dean and James Edwards Dean.

The Pike County Commission held a public hearing Aug. 10, on a petition by the Pirnies and Deans to vacate a 1.8-mile stretch of Farnell Road. The land on both sides of the road is owned by the Pirnies and Deans.

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The Commission heard from both sides of the issue and denied the request at the county commission meeting immediately following the public hearing.

Commissioner Homer Wright made the motion to keep that stretch of Farnell Road open. The second by Commissioner Charlie Harris was followed by a unanimous vote of the commission in a room full of China Grove residents in support of the commission’s vote.

Residents of the China Grove community expressed hope that the commission’s decision had put the issue to rest.

However, Grady Reeves, attorney for the plaintiffs, said the Pike County Commission denied the plaintiff’s without a legally valid reason to deny the petition.

Reeves said Alabama law states that, when you have 100 percent of abutting landowners petitioning the court to vacate a road, the petition must be granted.

For the court to deny the petition, Reeves said an abutting land or property owner would have to be cut off and denied access to his or her property.

“Just because a road is pretty or you like to ride horses or four-wheelers on it or something of that nature I don’t think the judge is going to deny the petition,” Reeves said.

Reeves said his belief is that all three of the local judges will recuse themselves since the county commission is the defendant and a judge will be appointed to hear the case. “We’ll just have to wait and see who the judge will be,” he said.

Reeves said the hearing will be held on what he said is “simply what our position has been all along.”

“The decision that was made by the Pike County Commission was based on politics and not based on the law,” he said. “There will be a much different atmosphere in the circuit court than what we had at the Pike County Commission meeting.”

Allen Jones, attorney for the county, would not comment on the pending litigation.

Jimmy Messick, a resident of China Grove and one who spearheaded the effort to keep Farnell Road open, said the concerned citizens of China Grove and Pike County have a stake in the outcome of this case.

He said if the court closes a road that has been open to the public since around 1828, the floodgates will open and “roads will start closing right and left.”

“There are many dirt roads and some paved roads that will fall in the same category that Farnell is in,” Messick said. “Roads where people own both sides of the road for some distance. We know that there is always an alternate route you can take. It’s a matter of how far you have to travel out of your way to get to your destination.”