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Decades old private road causing dispute among Jefferson County neighbors

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RIGBY — A section of dirt road is at the center of a neighborhood dispute in Jefferson County.

The section of 465 North near 4100 East has beautiful homes, towering green trees and two bridges that cross water. The crossroads on 4100 East and 465 North indicate both a private and public road. 4100 E has a green street sign showing that it’s public, while 465 North has a blue sign, which means it’s private. Signs posted before the dirt road read, “No trespassing. Private road. Residents only.”

465 North
465 North in Jefferson County. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com

One of the problems? According to some residents in the area, people who don’t live on that road are driving through it, even semi-trucks. Residents say the road isn’t built for trucks.

“It’s just not conducive to public safety,” said Diana Thompson, who has lived in the area for almost four years.

When Thompson moved in, she didn’t know about the gravel road connecting the public and private streets. But she soon found out it was on private property being used as a through street.

Thompson went onto Google Maps to try and block the road off, saying it’s under construction so drivers who don’t live in the area won’t pass by. But that didn’t fix the problem.

465 North
465 North in Jefferson County. | Andrea Olson, EastIdahoNews.com

At a Jefferson County commissioners meeting last week, several residents showed up voicing their concerns, including Thompson.

During public comment, some residents said, “an unlawful condition exists,” and the through traffic is “causing wear and tear (on the road).”

On the other side, some neighbors believe 465 North shouldn’t have even been a controversy to begin with and to leave the road alone.

The legalities were also a big topic of discussion. The county is looking to retain outside legal counsel on the issue to avoid a conflict of interest for Jefferson County Prosecuting Attorney Mark Taylor. The prosecuting attorney lives on 465 North and was at the meeting voicing his opinion as a citizen.

Another topic of discussion at the meeting was a letter sent to a resident about the road.

Jefferson County Planning and Zoning sent a letter to resident Josephine Smith last month. She’s lived on 465 North for close to 40 years.

“We’re saying don’t use the private road connecting to the county road,” Jefferson County Planning and Zoning Administrator Kevin Hathaway said.

According to the letter, titled “Violation of Jefferson County Ordinance,” “465 North is not, in fact, a single road, but rather two separate roads, one built at least 30 years after the other. These two separate roads, however, have been connected to each other by a short road, the entirety of which is on your residential lot in the Cottonwoods subdivision. This conjoining of two dead-end roads by a short road across your property has resulted in public confusion that the two roads are a single through-street (‘Today’s 465 North’). …

“If you continue to permit vehicle traffic to cross your property, creating a through-street between 4100 East and 4108 East, the county may require all the owners of lots accessed from either of the conjoined roads, standing in for the developers, to widen, pave, and bring the full length of Today’s 465 North into conformity with the county’s current requirements for public roads and bridges in subdivisions.”

Hathaway said these types of compliance letters are not uncommon to issue.

“The letter was nothing more than what we would write in any situation like this when we become aware of a possible deficiency or violation in county ordinances. We send out a letter just like we did in this case, and we instruct them to contact our office so that we can begin the process to work with them to resolve whatever issue,” said Hathaway.

He stressed 465 North is not supposed to be a through road.

“It was supposed to come off of 4108 and go into serve the seven lots that it was permitted to by variance, and that was supposed to be the end of the road when it somehow got connected with another piece that served those other five lots that were done without a subdivision, illegally back in 1984,” he said.

Smith doesn’t see the same problem Planning and Zoning does.

“The 465 North dirt road that is in question has existed and been in use for over 35 years,” Smith told EastIdahoNews.com. “I love this road almost as much as my home and community because it’s all intertwined. I am frustrated, disappointed, and saddened with the letter from Planning and Zoning and how they have approached this situation.”

She explained the county should have seen this coming.

“If there were to be action needed, why didn’t it come in 1984 when the road was extended after the developers followed instructions from Planning and Zoning to be compliant?” Smith said. “I depended on the county to do their due diligence in researching before issuing permits and variances. After 35 years, I would expect this road would already be grandfathered in. If you change my road, are you going to change all of the other private roads, which were compliant in the year they were built, in Jefferson County?”

Jefferson County commissioners said more research has to be done before they act if anything should be done with 465 North or not.

“At this time, we don’t know what decisions will be made ultimately in regards to the P&Z letter issued to Josephine,” Commissioner Shayne Young told EastIdahoNews.com.

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