The issue of whether King George Bay Road, near French Settlement, is public or private will have to go to trial after a state court judge said the evidence presented at a preliminary hearing last month was too conflicting to decide.
Chief Judge Bob Morrison, of the 21st Judicial District Court, said in a judgment filed Thursday that Livingston Parish clearly had maintained the road to some degree for enough years to make it public. But there was conflicting evidence, Morrison said, as to whether the parish later abandoned the road through inaction or otherwise.
Morrison denied property owner Calvin Howell’s request for an injunction that would have prevented the parish from tearing down any gate Howell might erect over the gravel portion of the road that crosses his property and winds down to King George Bayou.
Howell’s attorney, Robert Harrison, said Friday he disagrees with the ruling but respects the court’s decision.
“But it was a hearing on a preliminary injunction, and we will move forward with our request for a declaratory judgment” that the road is part of Howell’s private property, Harrison said. “And if we need to present more evidence of that, we’re prepared to do it.”
Howell, who lives in Tennessee but has leased his King George Bay property to hunters, contends in his lawsuit that the only public portion of the road is the 7,587 feet of asphalt connected to La. 444 north of French Settlement. That is the only portion listed in the parish’s official road maintenance list. The remaining mile or so of gravel and dirt path that leads to the bank of the bayou is private property, Howell said.
Witnesses for the parish testified April 2, however, that the road has existed longer than Livingston has been a parish, providing a path to the bayou for more than two centuries, and that parish government had maintained the entire stretch of road for several decades.
Landowners along the gravel portion of the road agreed that someone — possibly the parish — had been maintaining the road, but they said it had fallen into such disrepair that they asked a parish councilman in 2012 if it could be accepted into the parish maintenance system. That councilman, landowners testified, said the parish was not accepting any “new” roads at that time.
Morrison said in his ruling there is also evidence of a parish work order request in 2013 that indicates a need for an “end of parish maintenance” sign to be erected along the road. But the requested location for the sign was noted only as the “end” of the road — the very thing in dispute in this case.
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