#GRAVELGATE LAKE OF THE OZARKS STYLE
Updated: Jan 23, 2021
No Marty Byrd by that name lives here at Lake of the Ozarks, but we certainly have enough of a story line to interest the fans of the show OZARK when they see how crazy true life events play out at the REAL Lake of the Ozarks.
WHAT IS GRAVELGATE?
The story goes something like this (according to neighbors and others who know the history of the property off of Crater Hill Road in Camden County, Missouri): Two brothers owned adjoining properties. There was a feud between said brothers about how one brother was to access his property. One brother (we will call him the "donor") wanted to access his property through his brother's property (we will call him Crater Hill Brother). Crater Hill brother did not allow "Donor" brother access through his property that adjoined on the backside. There is a lane there. It services Crater Hill Brother's barn in the middle of the property. See plats below. It has been said publicly by a neighbor who lives on Crater Hill Road, who lives right across the road from the CHR (Crater Hill Road) brother's property, that "there has been a gate in front of that property for the 18 years they have lived across the road as neighbors with that property". So there is that.
IMPORTANT TO NOTE: Donor brother is not land locked. He has full access to his property off of a county road.
However, that brother who owned the property off of Crater Hill Road died. When he died that property sold. At that time a feud ensued with the new owner and the "donor brother".
Apparently "Donor" brother insisted that he should have access through his deceased brother's farm (now with a new owner) off of Crater Hill Road. Apparently at some point in the spring of 2020 "Donor Brother" took his road demands to the 2nd district commissioner (Don Williams who was running for re-election at the time). You will note the letter below which mentions that Don Williams has brought the "issue" of the road way to Presiding Commissioner Greg Hasty" ( a lifelong surveyor in Camden County). In this letter it is clear Greg Hasty tells "Donor Brother" that based on the knowledge "presented to him" that roadway would "usually indicate a prescriptive easement". In June there was a letter nailed to a tree on deceased brother's property From Greg Hasty. This is an actual copy of what was nailed to the tree by what would appear to be "Donor brother" as a form of notice to the new owner. (see actual letter nailed to a tree below)
This letter shows by a time stamp sunshine requested that it was written on June 1, 2020:
The letter nailed to that tree says this: "the aerial map in visual proof. The 2019 images show a longstanding road.
Here is a photo taken from www.camdenmo.org of that "road". Can you see the indisputable county road through that 39.56 acres?
POINTS OF INTEREST:
In the letter nailed to the tree above Greg Hasty says he cannot render a legal opinion. He is correct because he is not an attorney. However, as part of every decision and every commission meeting Charles McElyea (the county attorney) sits at the commission table as their "legal counsel". It should also be noted that Charles McElyea owned a title company for decades. He is an expert on property rights issues and has been a part of thousands of title insurance policies over the years that have explicitly dealt with easements of all kinds as part of said ownership of title insurance company. He should be a true expert on easements such as the one being discussed in the letter. That being said, why did Greg Hasty not submit to the "legal" expertise of the county attorney who should know whether or not that path should be considered a county roadway? Being that the county attorney has a strong background in this local community and a deep understanding of property rights issues due to his practice, did the county attorney advise Greg Hasty that as of June 1, 2020 that roadway was only a prescriptive easement (if anything) based on the information they had as of that day? If that was the legal advice given on June 1 of 2020, why would an attorney with said background change his legal opinion 5 months later?
Hold that thought because these questions will mean more as you read on.
2. From the information obtained from more than one source, nowhere in the title work for the new property owners was there ever any mention of an "easement" that ever showed up in the title commitment. That means no easement of any kind was recorded of record with the county. Thus, when Greg Hasty notes that if the roadway has been used for over 10 years there is usually a "prescriptive easement" claim (even though the neighbors are willing to testify to the fact that there that roadway had been gated for the full 18 years that they lived across the road) he is NEVER saying that CHR is a county road.
(Just so you know ~ A prescriptive easement IS NOT A COUNTY ROAD. NOT BY A LONG SHOT). Here is the definition of a prescriptive easement:
To have witnesses acknowledge that there was a gate obstructing any passage across Crater Hill Brother's land does not support the definition of a 'prescriptive easement' by definition.
Important question someone should probably ask: Would the County Attorney, Charles McElyea, have underwritten such an easement when he owned the title company as part of a bank loan on donor brothers property if it were the only way in and out (which it is not) ? That answer should have been shared with the commissioners as this was a topic of conversation back in May/June. But, it does not appear that ever happened.
This is where the story gets crazier.
At the end of Crater Hill Road gravel road there are five parcels that are serviced by that road where it dead ends.
See the photo below:
You will see in the above photo that CHR ends at the point where all 5 parcels shown on the www.camdenmo.org GIS map come together. In fact, the CART MAP that always governs the county road department on what is to be considered a county road and what is not, shows that Crater Hill Road trails off to the right to what is shown on the map as property #4. (See Map Below that shows where the county road and bridge employees should maintain based on documents of record and what is legally accepted by the county government). Also NOTE: None of those 5 properties above are owned by the "donor brother".
Below you will see the CART MAP used by the county. Note the large white line. It shows where the county road dead ends. Note the thin white line. That is the gravel road the county recently put in place that traverses an entire parcel of ground to dead end in a field owned by the "donor brother".
This photo below is the lane that is thought to actually be the county road as shown on the CART Map. It would service property #4 as shown by the map above based on that map. Based on what is shown on the CART Map (above) the lane in question has never been part of the property owned by the property owners on parcel #5 (Crater Hill Brother).
(Photo above shows the actual road on the CART Map that is supposed to be maintained by the county. This is NOT the new gravel road at the end of CHR that the county just created.)
ENTER IN THE ELECTION FOR 2nd DISTRICT COMMISSIONER AND A CAMPAIGN CONTRIBUTION
First look at the date of this contribution by the donor brother/land owner. May 28, 2020. Now go back and look at the time and date stamp of the letter nailed to the tree, June 1, 2020. It would appear that once Don Williams took this contribution, three days later Greg Hasty wrote a letter that said this:
"Don Williams has brought to my attention the issue of the existing roadway into your fields. Don explained to me that this roadway has been used to access those fields for decades."
NOTE: GREG HASTY NEVER MAKES THE ARGUMENT THAT THIS IS A PUBLIC ROADWAY AT THIS TIME (June 1, 2020). ONLY USUALLY A "PRESCRIPTIVE EASEMENT". A prescriptive easement is MUCH different than a county road. They are TOTALLY DIFFERENT.
Also noteworthy is the fact the county appears to have NO documented record of maintaining and keeping that lane as public. But, what we do have is this recorded document shown above. This clearly shows that Crater Hill Road is only .7 miles of gravel located just off of highway 5. That road became "official" in 1993. That is exactly the distance of CHR now to where it deadends.
Another point that needs to be noted, there is not a home down the new gravel road installed by the county road department. The gravel road installed by the county is said to be approximately 1 mile long. The new county road goes through a field, to an empty field.
SUMMARIZE: There was a contribution made by a donor; three days later a letter was posted to a tree; the letter acknowledged that the road like that one is usually a prescriptive easement ( if anything); property owner who bought from deceased brother sold the property he had just purchased to buyer #2 in November of 2020.
FAST FORWARD TO DECEMBER OF 2020. New Buyer #2 had just closed on Crater Hill Road property. No letter was posted to a tree describing this easement to be usually a "prescriptive" this time. The election had been won by 2nd District Commissioner in August. Don Williams was guaranteed another 4 years with that victory. This time, somehow, the commission changed their tune and decided the lane at the end of the property at the end of Crater HIll Road was a COUNTY ROAD. Wait, WHAT?!!!!? In June it was considered usually a prescriptive easement by the presiding commissioner. In December it was a county road. How? What gives? What changed?
Triggered. Somehow the lane at the end of Crater Hill Road was deemed a county road. NOT ONLY THAT, the lane at the end of Crater Hill Road was ordered to be maintained IMMEDIATELY. This means multiple county trucks and heavy equipment were sent to grade out a new road and deliver load after load of gravel to make this a "county roadway" through new buyer #2's property to the donor's property without buyer #2 having any knowledge of what was happening to his newly purchased property.
What changed? Good question.
This story blew up on social media when the real estate agent took the story live and shared with many people what was happening because he was in distress. Lake News picked up on the story. On December 15, 2020 there was an article written by the local newspaper.
Don Williams said: "In order to determine if the road was indeed a county road, I contacted a former long-time Road and Bridge Administrator to inquire if the county had actually maintained it in the past, as the farmer claimed. He confirmed that the county had maintained it for many years. "
He also said: "I asked the county attorney to contact the former road and bridge administrator regarding this road. The inquiry of the county attorney indicated that the road has been maintained by county for a period of time sufficient to meet the requirements of law regarding public roads. I then instructed the South District Supervisor to begin maintaining the road in accordance with law."
Note he used the word maintaining. Not sure if maintaining is the right word when it would certainly appear the county created a new road that did not exist before.
Read the entire story at Lake News Online by clicking this link: https://www.lakenewsonline.com/story/news/2020/12/15/camden-county-commissioners-deny-wrongdoing-county-road-work-done-private-property/3912756001/
NOTE the date of this story: December 15, 2020.
Lake News Online gave Commissioner Greg Hasty the ability to respond. This is what he had to say:
Greg Hasty said, "The donor “...stopped in the commission office last week and stated that the county had stopped maintaining his road a few years ago. This indicated to me that the road might have been accepted by the county at some point. "
WAIT...NOTICE THE TIMESTAMP ON THE ARTICLE. December 15, 2020. GREG HASTY'S RESPONSE WAS DUE TO ALLEGATIONS BEING MADE ON FACEBOOK. Hasty said that the donor stopped in the commission office LAST WEEK. REMEMBER the letter nailed to the tree? That letter was dated June 1, 2020. Kind of makes you go hmmmm, doesn't it? He made no mention of the letter he had written in June of 2020.
Equally weird is when he said this:
"I asked the county attorney to contact a former road and bridge administrator regarding this road. The inquiry of the county attorney indicated that the road has been maintained by county for a period of time sufficient to meet the requirements of law regarding public roads. I then instructed the South District Supervisor to begin maintaining the road in accordance with law.
If you listen to the commission meeting on December 17, 2020 you will hear all that was said in a link below. A couple of the most notable things said in that meeting were these quotes:
QUOTE FROM GREG HASTY SAID TO THOSE IN ATTENDANCE AT A COMMISSION MEETING:
"I knew about it before they went out to grade it. I did a follow up with Charlie McElyea. I said please check with this again and Charlie checked on this again and based on that information I had there, I actually personally never talked actually to the former road and bridge administrator, Charlie called him. Don called him. And based on that information everything that we had in front of us at the time indicated it was a county roadway and that it met the requirements of the statutes and I told Bill to go out and grade the road. It is a county road."
In the comment above Commissioner Greg Hasty is admitting that he put all his eggs in the county attorney's recommendation basket based on supposed prior conversations McElyea had with the former R/B administrator. Additionally Hasty admits the fact that Don Williams had called the former,( retired for approx. 10 years), road and bridge administrator and was told that according to him the road was a county road. As a result, Hasty (the Presiding Commissioner) gave the orders to gravel that road.
QUOTE BY DON WILLIAMS:
"In this situation I called the road and bridge administrator, a former one, and from what he said, it very well could be a county road. I wasn't going to be involved in it because he gave me a campaign contribution. I said you are going to have to come in and talk to my fellow commissioners. And that is what happened."
Watch the entire Commission meeting here:
THE BIG ISSUE.
When the road and bridge administrator was interviewed later on the evening of December 17, 2020 (same day as the commission meeting recorded above) he said he was not called about the road until after it was done.
He also admitted that he never said that road was a county road. Comments from that interview are as follows below.
QUOTE from former road and bridge administrator:
" I know they put it in the paper and I called Charlie McElyea after I read the paper and told him I did not like this, this was not right. They called me after it was done.' I called Charlie and told him I was one mad son of a bitch."