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Wells Council denies cartway despite attorney presentation

By Staff | Jan 14, 2018

Attorney Steven Vatndal addressed the Wells City Council on behalf of his client, Mike Weber.

“You’re saying if we don’t give him this, he’s going to hold us hostage to do that agreement with the cartway,” was Wells City Councilman John Herman’s words of frustration with Steven Vatndal, attorney for Mike Weber, whose public hearing regarding a petition for a cartway took place last Monday evening at the Wells City Council meeting.

“I’m not telling you he’s going to hold you hostage to do it,” retorted Vatndal. “But I’m saying, as a practical matter, if he’s not able to do this, it’s pressure on them (Webers) to try to get this access in another way. And the only other way is to develop a subdivision plat.”

Councilman Herman still had concerns, even with clarification from the Webers’ attorney.

“Then we have to spend approximately $30,000 to get sewer and water to his property line. If he develops now, it’s fine, but if he doesn’t, the pipes just lay in the ground until he does, which could be years,” was Herman’s response to Vatndal. “How do we know that property will be maintained? For me, this whole unknown factor as to what he (Mike Weber) will do with this is very concerning.”

Concerns from other residents were brought up to the board during the public hearing.

As a matter of fact, it was “in light of the reaction from those neighbors that Mike chose not to be present at the public hearing,” according to the Webers’ attorney.

The Webers’ perspective, according to Vatndal, was that they were not ready for development of the land behind the property, but needed access to it to maintain the property a few times a year. The only reason they are pursuing the cartway option, according to their attorney, is because of a cease and desist letter the Webers received last year.

“It won’t cost the city anything to allow this cartway, but if they (Webers) don’t get access this way, the more formal way to go about things is to develop a subdivision plat,” said Vatndal. “It will cost everyone in the city more money for the cost of water, sewer, and other developmental costs. The easiest and least expensive way is to give them access to establish a cartway.”

The proposed cartway was requested to be on the western platted terminus of Eighth Street SW or at the west end of the improved Seventh Street SW, according to the petition brought forth by the Webers.

“It makes us look bad if we allow this cartway thinking he will only go in and out a couple of times a year and if he doesn’t hold his end of the bargain up, and he’s in and out a couple of times a day, we’ve set a bad precedence. That’s my concern,” said Herman.

“And, if the reason they want access is for maintenance, I have a hard time believing the current path they have isn’t feasible for that,” added Mayor David Braun.

The public did have a chance to speak their minds on the matter as well, and did so.

“I can respect that you council members are in a position of power right now. I am strongly against the proposal of a cartway because the term cartway is very loose by definition of law,” said Wells resident Dan Hart. “The law does not define how the cartway would need to be maintained, what kind of development can be done on that path whether it’s grass or gravel or dirt or concrete and it does not specify how it would affect my own property.”

Another concern brought up by the city was the ability for the Webers, whose property is annexed out of the city of Wells, to use water and sewer access at the cost to the tax payers.

According to the city attorney, David Frundt, the city would be able to put conditions on the cartway agreement, which Vatndal said the Weber party would be agreeable to. Even then, there were concerns from the public.

“Most of you know Mike Weber enough to know when he said it was going to be private (an access point), it would be private. He was nice when he said we could use it as much as we wanted to, but now when we didn’t want him to do this cartway, it’s private and you’ll never be able to go back there. You guys all know what you’re dealing with here,” said Wells resident Julie Treptow.

There were questions, also, with regard to the multitude of other access points at the outskirts of Wells that could be considered cartways.

“If we give access to one person in town, if we are playing the lets’-be-fair game, and we give him access to some private property, who is the next one and the next one so they can have access to their property so that they do not ruin their front lawn, they want to ruin the neighbor’s front lawn instead because it’s easier to get back to their piece of property in the back yard. You are setting a precedence,” said City Council member Crystal Dulas. “I would love to think this would not be abused, but unfortunately history speaks for itself.”

“On the flip side, if we deny this we could potentially spend a whole lot of money that isn’t budgeted,” said Herman.

“This benefits the city of Wells none,” said Mayor Braun.

After much discussion, a motion was made by Whitney Harig to deny the petition, with a second from Dulas. Both Herman and Brenda Weber opposed the motion, leaving the motion tied. Mayor Braun voted in favor of denying the petition to establish a cartway.