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Old 06-07-2018, 10:29 AM
Bijou Drains is offline
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Closing a public road?


a church close by built a new building. As part of that work a public road was extended past the church. I drove on the new road for a few weeks. Now it seems they are trying to close that new section of road - they put large barriers at each end of the new section.

Does it take a court order to close a road in most states? This is NC if it matters. I suspect the church is trying to close it. This road has very little traffic so I don't think that is the issue . It has all the signs, pavement markings, etc for a public road.
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Old 06-07-2018, 10:57 AM
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I assume ultimately it depends who actually owns title to the property?
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Old 06-07-2018, 11:05 AM
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Does it take a court order to close a road in most states?
A local road in my area is closed (all four lanes) because they are repairing the train crossing.

No court order required.
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Old 06-07-2018, 11:21 AM
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I assume ultimately it depends who actually owns title to the property?
And that depends on whether it really is a public(-owned) road or not. The OP says it is, based on the fact that there are signs and pavement markings, but I don't think that proves it: there are signs and pavement markings in parking lots.

I'm pretty sure that different entities (cities, counties, states) have jurisdiction over different public roads, and that the answer to the OP's question would depend on who has jurisdiction over this particular road.
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Old 06-07-2018, 11:35 AM
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there are some local roads clearly marked as private , including the short street I live on. The town or state does not own or maintain those roads. This road is not marked as private.

Maybe the church changed their mind and did not give the property to be a public road. Or maybe they are waiting to get the payment for their land.

I've seen lots of roads closed for a short time for construction. This construction was finished months ago.
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Old 06-07-2018, 12:12 PM
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Originally Posted by Bijou Drains View Post
a church close by built a new building. As part of that work a public road was extended past the church. I drove on the new road for a few weeks. Now it seems they are trying to close that new section of road - they put large barriers at each end of the new section.

Does it take a court order to close a road in most states? This is NC if it matters. I suspect the church is trying to close it. This road has very little traffic so I don't think that is the issue . It has all the signs, pavement markings, etc for a public road.
You seem to be assuming that everything about the construction was done correctly. This is not always a safe assumption. I have seen a few cases where a problem developed after a few months, and some of the work had to be redone.
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Old 06-07-2018, 12:23 PM
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yes, there could be a problem with the road. I will see if there is more construction done on it. This section is only around 300 yards long.
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Old 06-07-2018, 12:37 PM
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Road issues are rife with problems. I live at the end of a county road, that is unimproved. They grade it about every 2 years. My drive comes directly off the road so we try to keep the connection taken care of so we can actually get into our property. My husband took it upon himself to dig a couple of ditches along side of the county road to keep water from pooling on a particular spot. He got a nasty letter from the county for his efforts. But, they did come and drop some gravel in that spot after that.
So you never know, the city or county may be disputing the improvement or some utility is having problem with right-of-way.
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Old 06-07-2018, 01:07 PM
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There are a billion reasons it could be closed. It doesn't require a court order. The road is owned by whomever owns it and they can do what they want. If it's public, then it's probably the municipality or county. Of course, the simplest answer is that since they didn't have one there before, the church likely built it themselves and therefore it's treated the same way you would treat a driveway. You can probably find a plat map online of your county and it will show you the landowner. There is a chance that they ceded right-of-way to the city or county if they own it, but either way, it's highly unlikely that anything suspect is going on. If the city owns it, they won't take kindly to a church putting up barriers and they would come down pretty quickly. If the church owns it, then they can do what they want and it's no different than if someone is taking shortcuts through your backyard and you put up a fence. If the church is simply mad that the road exists, then there wouldn't be barriers there. They might be appealing to the city or even going to court over it, but the road would stay open in the meantime. The only reason I can think a court would get involved would be if there is a dispute over who owns it, but that likely would have been dealt with before the road was completed.

If I had to take a guess, since it has only been open a few weeks is that they discovered an issue after traffic started driving on it, maybe premature cracking or they are worried about some sort of erosion. Generally speaking, they don't build a road and then close it after a month unless something is wrong. It's also possible that they are wanting to do more construction and the road was never officially opened, but people started driving on it anyway, so they put up the barriers. I would wager that it is probably being closed by the municipality rather than the church simply because the church isn't going to build a road just to immediately close it. Even if it had issues, they'd probably still use it. It's a waste of money to build something only to immediately shut it down.

Last edited by senoy; 06-07-2018 at 01:08 PM.
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Old 06-07-2018, 01:24 PM
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tax map shows the road is the dividing line between church land and the land parcel next to it which points to it being a public road.
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Old 06-07-2018, 01:55 PM
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Then I'd say call your city or county's Department of Public Works and ask them what's up. They can probably tell you.
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Old 06-07-2018, 02:03 PM
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As it happens I know a little bit about road privatization in NC. I'm aware of a church on a dead-end street which over time acquired all the properties on the street and then "privatized" it, including a gate at the entrance. I don't know the exact mechanism, but if you drive down it without permission you can be charged with trespassing. Also, some members of the same church acquired all the houses on a different dead-end street and privatized that.

I assume there is some legal or regulatory process, which obligates the "owners" to maintain the road, but these are cases where the road is not a through road. Seems like the OP is suggesting that the barricades interrupt a through road.
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Old 06-07-2018, 02:12 PM
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this road connects a couple of neighborhoods to NC 54 which is a major 2 lane road in the area. NC 54 has a lot of shopping centers on it and connects to a lot of other neighborhoods.

About 15 years ago a local shopping center sort of closed a road and turned it into a parking lot since they owned land on both sides of the road. You can still drive it but now you are driving through a parking lot. I don't think anyone complained about that since it's not really a closure.
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Old 06-07-2018, 03:39 PM
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Then I'd say call your city or county's Department of Public Works and ask them what's up. They can probably tell you.
Yeah, this. Somebody permitted it, and somebody knows about it. If it's a municipality (City, Village) contact city hall. The engineering department. Your council representative. Someone can at least point you in the right direction to a person who knows.
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Old 06-08-2018, 10:04 PM
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tax map shows the road is the dividing line between church land and the land parcel next to it which points to it being a public road.
I dunno. In my general area, a public road between two private lots would show on the map as a open gap between the two boundaries. The map is drawn with exact survey results of lot corners, so a gap of 15 or 20 feet of public property will show on the map.
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Old 06-09-2018, 12:26 AM
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A roadway built on private property for the convenience of access for construction vehicles does not necessarily make it a public road. However, in most states at least, a driveable road connecting two designated public thoroughfares can be legally used by the public. But the owner of such a roadway has a right to block it in any manner, and that informal act by itself terminates the right of public access.
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Old 06-09-2018, 07:15 AM
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A roadway built on private property for the convenience of access for construction vehicles does not necessarily make it a public road. However, in most states at least, a driveable road connecting two designated public thoroughfares can be legally used by the public. But the owner of such a roadway has a right to block it in any manner, and that informal act by itself terminates the right of public access.
With the exception that using a private parking lot or similar public-accessible area to bypass a traffic control device (traffic light) is a ticketable offense in some areas. You can't cut through the corner gas station or strip mall to turn right.
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Old 06-09-2018, 07:44 AM
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tax map shows the road is the dividing line between church land and the land parcel next to it which points to it being a public road.
Just a single line? ... or a 60 foot space between the properties? ... tax maps here in the USA typically add the names the streets ... here's an example ... and these are supposed to be accurate to a tenth of a foot ...

Someone in local government knows exactly why this road is blocked off ... your mission, if you choose to accept it, is to find that person then report back here the name ... just the name please ...
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Old 06-09-2018, 07:49 AM
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Perhaps they built a short roadway to accommodate the building process, with the clear intention that it be modified into parking after no longer so required?

I could see the municipality requiring it to be ‘public’ only WHILE they were using it as an access road. And now that they’re done, that’s over.

Call and ask, but my money is on this is what you’ll be told.
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Old 06-09-2018, 10:49 AM
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Sounds like the road was not a public road. Building a road that connects to a public road does not make said road public.
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Old 06-09-2018, 01:36 PM
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A roadway built on private property for the convenience of access for construction vehicles does not necessarily make it a public road. However, in most states at least, a driveable road connecting two designated public thoroughfares can be legally used by the public. But the owner of such a roadway has a right to block it in any manner, and that informal act by itself terminates the right of public access.
Unless it is a public easement.
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Old 06-09-2018, 02:52 PM
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There are a billion reasons it could be closed. It doesn't require a court order. The road is owned by whomever owns it and they can do what they want. If it's public, then it's probably the municipality or county. Of course, the simplest answer is that since they didn't have one there before, the church likely built it themselves and therefore it's treated the same way you would treat a driveway. You can probably find a plat map online of your county and it will show you the landowner. There is a chance that they ceded right-of-way to the city or county if they own it, but either way, it's highly unlikely that anything suspect is going on.
It all depends. If the public has been using it, and the Church owns it, the church may have ceded Public Right of Way anyway. ymmv, ianal.
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Old 06-09-2018, 02:55 PM
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A roadway built on private property for the convenience of access for construction vehicles does not necessarily make it a public road. However, in most states at least, a driveable road connecting two designated public thoroughfares can be legally used by the public. But the owner of such a roadway has a right to block it in any manner, and that informal act by itself terminates the right of public access.
Not if the Public has acquired a easement by use. Ask a lawyer.
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Old 06-09-2018, 03:51 PM
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Not if the Public has acquired a easement by use. Ask a lawyer.
In most states if it is blocked one a year for 24 hours the owner has not granted an easement by use.
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Old 06-09-2018, 03:52 PM
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In most states if it is blocked one a year for 24 hours the owner has not granted an easement by use.
Maybe. but ianal, and i dont think you are one either, and yes, it does vary state by state.
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Old 06-09-2018, 11:46 PM
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Maybe. but ianal, and i dont think you are one either, and yes, it does vary state by state.
Just a life experience years ago.
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Old 06-10-2018, 12:36 AM
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But the owner of such a roadway has a right to block it in any manner, and that informal act by itself terminates the right of public access.
Unless its got an easement on the title for the land the road is on.. Basically it means the land is owned by anyone, but the easement says the land is a public thoroughfare.

Easements mean that if the easement is removed, then the land can be used as regular private land. But the easement has special conditions. eg you let the government do what it likes with the public thoroughfare. Or you don't build substantial (definition ?) over a utility installed in the ground. Or you don't build anything there just because its near something else. (the utility might be just outside , and they need access to their utility to make repairs ? )

Or easements for drainage, so that you don't dam up a drainage system and cause a flood.

Some easements are just for the the driveway to your neighbours.. that you have to let them through.



Anyway, the situation is that the county probably controls whether it is or isn't a usable public road. But it may be that the road was there before but now its private land with no easement.
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Old 06-12-2018, 05:40 PM
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walked the road today and did not see any visible problems to my untrained eye. Funny thing , somebody knocked the barriers down at one end of the road. I will call the town tomorrow to see what they say about it.
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Old 06-14-2018, 02:35 PM
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Closed due to legal dispute. From the town:

There is a legal dispute between the two private parties that must sign the easement plat to dedicate the public Right of Way (ROW) for the road. Until they resolve their differences and record the ROW then the road is on private property and does not belong to Cary. The road is closed because one or both owners have it closed to limit their personal liability should an accident happen while people are on private property not in the ROW.
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Old 06-09-2019, 08:14 AM
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and 1 year later the road is still not open. They did remove more dirt from the slope on 1 side of the road which I thought would allow them to open it but it's still closed. Either the church or the land owner on the other side must be refusing to sign off or maybe they refuse to pay for something.
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Old 06-09-2019, 08:21 AM
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Maybe one of those land owners doesn't WANT it to be a public road. You aren't usually required to ceded your rights to land just because you allowed a road to be built on it.
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Old 06-09-2019, 09:01 AM
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<snip> ...there are signs and pavement markings in parking lots. <snip>
A Word Of Warning--not all signs in parking lots are legal. Many years ago, I got a ticket for an illegal left turn into a shopping center parking lot. There was no traffic in any direction, including the parking lot. Except the cop parked just behind the building obviously waiting for just such an occasion. Court date comes, I'm going to explain the traffic situation to the judge and throw myself on the mercy of the Court. Turns out 5 or 6 of us are there for the same infraction and we're being heard one after the other, I assume so the cop can get back to work. The first two are found guilty, assessed fines and possibly points. Contestant #3 produces an official document declaring the "traffic device" (the left turn sign) is illegal--put there by the shopping center! It's on the wrong side of the road, it's at the wrong height, other illegalities. #3 is acquitted. I'm #4. "Yer Honor, what he said!" Case dismissed. I high-tail it in case someone changes their mind. I approach the cop, in the lobby, and ask him what happens to the first two defendants who were found guilty of no offense. Not my problem! he says, hurrying to give out more tix until they can take down that Traffic Device. I call after him, Shouldn't you know which TDs are official? Shouldn't the shopping center get a ticket for an illegal left-turn sign? He's all-of-a-sudden gone deaf. Sad.

TL;DR--do not trust all traffic signs.
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Old 06-09-2019, 09:14 AM
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Interesting as always to see the differences. Private developers build roads all the time and in 99% of cases, they want the Local Authority to 'adopt' them. Once adopted the road becomes a public highway (although a private road can be a public highway too) and the LA has to maintain it. It is not unusual for an LA to refuse to adopt a road unless and until it is bought up to standard.

We have all kinds of road signs on private car parks and many of them do not meet the required standard. In fact, a cop cannot issue a ticket for ignoring one, even if it is 'good'. It would be different if you were involved in a collision making that left/right turn though as the insurance company would surely make you 100% to blame, even if the sign was too low/too small etc.
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Old 06-09-2019, 09:27 AM
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Maybe one of those land owners doesn't WANT it to be a public road. You aren't usually required to ceded your rights to land just because you allowed a road to be built on it.
And if the owner isn't going to budge, the government would have to go the route of eminent domain to take an easement if they really wanted the public road. That does require a public court hearing and a lot of expense.
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Old 06-09-2019, 09:31 AM
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And as bob++ points out, the local government may not have any real interest in taking over the maintenance of the road, and might be perfectly happy to leave it in private hands.
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Old 06-09-2019, 10:19 AM
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from what they told me the town plans to take it over once the 2 owners sign off. Clearly they are in no hurry to sign.
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Old 06-09-2019, 02:13 PM
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If I understand the sequence of events correctly, the government body (City, Town or County) spent public funds to build a road on property that's privately owned. And after discovering that problem, now is trying to get waivers from the landowners. Is that close to correct?

If that's correct, some public official should now be gainfully unemployed AND the government body should be taking the land by eminent domain rather than wasting time.

Just my 2 cents - take it for what it's worth!
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Old 06-09-2019, 02:38 PM
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Don't know what the law is in NC; but in NY, if the Town/County/Whatever municipality spent money to build a road on private land, whoever in the Town made those decisions would definitely be in trouble.

However it's possible that the church built the road assuming the town would take it over once built. That's a common arrangement in NY and probably elsewhere; but at least in NY the municipality's not required to take roads over just because somebody built them, and may in fact be barred from doing so if the road doesn't meet minimum standards, some of which are set by the state, not by the municipality. (My town gets repeated requests to take roads over from people on narrow steep private roads leading to the lake which don't meet the minimum standard for right-of-way. No can do, even if they wanted to; the state says that's not legal.)

It wouldn't be the first time that one party either assumed their neighbor would go along with something, or assumed the other party could be forced into line; but such assumptions often don't work out well for those who make them.
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Old 06-09-2019, 03:30 PM
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I still don't understand why the OP thinks that a court order is required to close a road.
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Old 06-09-2019, 04:23 PM
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the road was built at the same time the church next to the road built a new building. Which makes me think the church also paid to build the road for access to their property. The church has another entrance they are using now so I guess that might be why they are not in a hurry to sign off. The land on the other side of the road is vacant now so that owner may not be in a big hurry to sign as well.

just in case anyone is interested , this is the church https://www.raleighccc.org/main/
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Old 06-11-2019, 04:31 PM
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I still don't understand why the OP thinks that a court order is required to close a road.
Me, too.

Whoever owns the road can close it, whether the owner is private, a municipality, state, or other entity (such as the federal government in the case of federal installations).

I work at a public water and sewer utility. Most of our infrastructure is in public roadways. To repair or replace our infrastructure, we apply for an excavation permit to the owner of the roadway. They grant the permit and apply any necessary preconditions. These might include limits on how long and when the road can be closed*, and what type of traffic control is required (e.g. alternating one-way traffic with police or flaggers, or even a full detour). They also dictate what type of roadway restoration is required after our work is complete.

We then close the road (following the conditions of our permit) to do our work. No court order required.

*In the case of busy roads, this can get very involved, like requiring work to be completed between 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. to avoid rush hour traffic, or during the overnight hours. In cases like this, we are often required to conduct daily temporary paving to restore the road at the end of each construction day. Sometimes this is not possible, and we have to install Jersey barriers around the excavation, or place steel road plates -- but again, the owner of the road has to approve this.
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