Hearing set to determine status of vacating road

Published 12:13 am Friday, April 17, 2009

Plans to vacate a road in rural Dallas County could block access to a large portion of state owned land at Old Cahawba, according to the Alabama Historical Commission.

Dr. Scott Drummond, Levy Bryant and Port Royal Investments LLC. petitioned the Dallas County Commission to vacate Callaway Road, which runs along the southeastern border of land owned by the Alabama Historical Commission. A hearing on the move has been set for April 27 at 3 p.m. in the county commission chambers.

Frank White, executive director of the Alabama Historical Commission, said the road vacation would limit access to areas of the historical park and hinder future development of the site.

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“Our simple petition is that we have existing road right of ways that intersect the Old Callaway Road,” White said. “We may want to use those roads at some point in time.”

Attorney John Calame, who represents Drummond, Bryant and Port Royal, said his clients do not want to prevent access to state-owned land.

“Basically, it’s to prevent littering and trespassing, things of that nature,” Calame said. “Dr. Drummond is not attempting to limit the state’s access to any of its property.”

However, Linda Derry, site director of Old Cahawba, said the road is the only access point on the southeastern side of the historical park. Derry said adjacent landowners must agree before a county road can be closed. The Alabama Historical Commission, which is an adjacent landowner, did not learn about the petition until it appeared as a legal notice, she said.

“We just had to read about it in the paper,” Derry said.

Derry said the road closure could have far reaching effects, too.

“The closing of this road would require the Alabama Historical Commission to spend limited public funds to construct a new access road,” Derry said. “In my mind, the future historical development of the site would be compromised.”

Calame said the practice of using the road would not be uncommon since the previous owners blocked it with a gate.

“There has been a gate at various times for the last 20 years,” he said.

County commission chairman Kim Ballard said Callaway Road was not listed on the commission’s map, and the county has not maintained the road in years. Ballard also said in the past the road has been closed with a locked gate by previous owners.

“It was closed in, not accessible to the public,” Ballard said. “The Drummonds are really wanting to continue that practice with a gate across that road. I think the contention on the part of the state is the gate is denying them access to some state property.”

Commissioner Larry Nickles said he wanted to hear both sides at the upcoming hearing before making a comment on the petition.

“I really don’t know until we have the meeting,” Nickles said.

Along with the road closure, the Alabama Historical Commission wrote Drummond a letter asking him to remove a game fence that blocks access to about 30 acres of state-owned land. The fence, which is meant to keep wild game such as deer on the property, runs in a southeasternly direction across property owned by the Alabama Historical Commission. Derry said the fence remained up Thursday.

“Our stance is it’s not appropriate,” Derry said. “It’s not legal.”