That old, abandoned road on your property may not be abandoned

When was the last time that you looked at a map of your property? You might be surprised to find an old township road running through your property that hasn’t been used in years.

How this can be a road when there’s nothing but woods, a field that you have been using for pasture or even a grass lawn within a few feet from your house?

To prevent future headaches or disputes, the best way to alleviate any problems would be to find out if the road was ever vacated and is no longer an official road.

Where to start

To get the process under way, contact your county engineer’s office. The county engineer should have access to records that show whether or not the road has been officially vacated.

If the road has not been vacated, then the process of vacating the road could start. Keep in mind, the road might be needed for utilities and can’t be vacated due to a permanent easement. Or, if an adjacent property owner has no other way to reach his property, it may be hard to get the road vacated.

There are two ways to start the process of getting the road vacated. First, the township trustees can petition the board of county commissioners by passing a resolution that requests the vacation of the road.

The second way is to get a petition from the county engineer’s office or the county commissioners. The petition needs to be signed by a number of people and returned to the county commissioners. Once this step is complete and all the paperwork is in order, then the county commissioners can proceed.

Public process

The following normally takes place after the petition has been received. Within 45 days, a date and time will be set for a public hearing on the vacation of the road. Before the public hearing, the county commissioners may have a public viewing when the county commissioners go out to the proposed road to be vacated. By doing this, the county commissioners can get an understanding for why the road is proposed to be vacated.

During the public hearing, the county commissioners will take into consideration the reasons for vacating or keeping the road open.

Check out the law

If you would like to read more on the process and the legal do’s and don’ts, read the Ohio Revised Code Chapter 5553: County roads – establishment; alteration; vacation.

After reading this, you may think no one will ever want to use that old road, why should I even bother?

Recently, landowners have had issues with old roads. An adjacent landowner reopened an old road that was close to 20 feet from this landowner’s house and had a large tree in the middle of the old road, which was essentially this landowner’s yard. With some help from a bulldozer, the road has been reopened.

Another situation in which a road was reopened, a culvert with a small dam was constructed in order to pass over the stream to get access to the next property. The adjacent landowner had another way to access their property as well, but created a mess not only for himself, but the property owner where the old road was located.

Then it was landowner against landowner and the Army Corps of Engineers got involved due to stream impacts. If the road was vacated properly, then that situation could have been avoided.

Who knew that old road running through your woods or pasture could lead to such an issue?

About the Author

Brandon Andresen is the water quality coordinator for Jefferson SWCDs. Prior to joining the Jefferson SWCD, Brandon was the lead soil erosion technician for Allegheny County Conservation District in Pittsburgh, PA. More Stories by Brandon Andresen

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