Neighbors involve commission in land debate

Stephanie Myers-News-Herald

A heated, tense war of words ended Monday with a group of Fort Loudon Estates neighbors storming out of the Loudon County Commission meeting.

Several neighbors sought resolution regarding ownership of a 50-foot piece of property on Norma Lane in Lenoir City.

Homeowner Bobby Davis and his wife have lived in the neighborhood for nearly 40 years, and he said neighbor Jeff See is the first to "challenge our right and our legitimate deeds."

Davis said when he and his wife bought the property in 1969, one of the selling points was those with no frontage on the lake would have access through Joy Lane and Norma Lane.

When See bought the property in February 2009, he "wished to somehow acquire that property and add that to his," Davis said.

"These deeds are registered and have been registered for many years. So we determined that we would come to county commission and see if county commission would make sure our property rights are going to be kept safe as it shows on our deeds," Davis said.

"I'm kind of at a lost to understand why Mr. Jeff See would even go this route because over the past 40 years the people who lived next to these two accesses, they have used them at their own free will, anytime," Davis said. "No one has said any word to them and they have really used them as their own. They have built sheds on one of them, which we don't see is right and they're under TVA power lines anyway. So we determined to come down here today to see if county court will not send a letter to Mr. Jeff See informing him that our deeds are valid and should be protected."

Soon after Davis gathered up his notes from the podium facing the row of 10 commissioners, fellow neighbors applauded in support.

"I would just like to expand on what Mr. Davis was talking about on my pursuance of understanding the ownership of Norma Lane, which is a 50-foot right of way just west of my property," See said.
He said he was always interested in the original purpose of the piece of land. After researching and reviewing original neighborhood plots, See said he concluded that a neighborhood road access was never developed.

"My concern as a neighbor and a property owner in Fort Loudon Estates is we have (two) 50-foot pieces of property that is not clearly owned by anyone. It is in some of our deeds - it is not in all the deeds," See said.

He argued that the Norma Lane property doesn't have access to the lake, but merely comes to a 10-foot drop off to the lake "that is not accessible really for the neighborhood to even use."
A neighbor has even taken over the piece of property since no one has used it, See said.

"He has built two sheds on this property, stores a boat trailer, built a horseshoe pit and a fire pit on it. It's not even accessible by road vehicles to the lake anymore. He's felt very comfortable over the years because nobody has ever used it," See said. "My concern is I live next door to it and I have a lot of value in my home and my initial (concern) was to find out who owns it and to find out if that land could be purchased and split between Mr. White (the neighbor) and I. It wasn't to shun the neighborhood of access to the lake."

Another Fort Loudon Estates neighbor defended Davis' argument.

"In my warranty deed, and also in two of my neighbor's warranty deeds, it also states the same thing as Bobby Davis stated. This was also sold to us as deeded lake access," Mary DuFresne, a resident who recently moved from Florida, said. "I would hate to see something happen to my deeded lake access."

Bob Bowman, county attorney, later in the meeting argued for See, saying the real question was "Who owns the dirt?"

"The problem is finding out who they (the real property owner) are," Bowman said.

Commissioner Austin Shaver seconded Bowman's argument saying, "Who bears the cost to find out who owns the property?"

"What Mr. Bowman is saying and what I want us to avoid getting into is the county commission cannot, nor should it ever, be involved in creating property owners, homeowners' association or taking away your private deeded rights. That is not being done here tonight. That can't be done. We couldn't do it even if we all wanted to. That's called Nazi Germany and we will avoid that for the long term," Shaver said.

"What we are trying to do is figure out who owns the property," he said. "We don't know ... That's the only decision being made here tonight is who is going to bear the expense of finding out who owns the property."

Commissioners unanimously agreed to send a letter to See to find out who owns the Norma Lane property.