Are the citizens of Matthews responsible for street lights on private property?
Are the citizens of Matthews responsible for relocating utility poles on private property?
I say, NO.
Matthews currently spends (give or take) $25,000.00 a month for public street lighting. In 1987 the Town instructed Duke Energy to install street lights on three existing utility poles that are located on Mr. & Mrs. Wrights private property. Matthews claims that when these lights were installed by Duke Energy this section was Town-maintained. During the condemnation of the Wrights property evidence showed that Home Place is a private road. For twenty-nine years the citizens have been paying for these street lights.
Within the first week or two of January one of the street light bulbs went out. On January 28, 2016 the light was replaced and because of the injunction placed upon Matthews in 2012 the Town was notified of the trespass. In an effort to keep this from happening in the future Matthews Town Manager questioned if the utility poles and lights could be moved to the other side of the street. The problem here is that Home Place is a private road so there is no public right-of-way and the cost of moving three utility poles would be astronomical. We’re talking easements, running lines under the road, a major undertaking.
Because the light bulb was replaced without the Wrights permission this has now put the Town in violation. If evidence shows the Town was involved then the Town could be in contempt of court. If convicted penalties would include a fine and possibly jail time. During the February 22, 2016 Board of Commissioners meeting the issue of “who” replaced the light bulb was discussed. The Town’s explanation is that a “good Samaritan” replaced the light bulb. WOW, this is interesting. Are we to believe that a private citizen scaled the pole with a light bulb in his pocket and fixed the burned out light? (oh what a tangled web we, well you get the idea). According to information I have received Duke Energy does not replace light bulbs at night and if no one is able to show which street light bulb needs replacing they request that the utility pole be marked.
During the meeting Commissioner Jeff Miller argued “we should not spend public dollars to improve or adjust anything on a private road” and “that would include the Town of Matthews shouldn’t pay to keep it lit”. He even stated “well everyone of our vehicles have head lights on it”. KUDOS to Commissioner Miller for learning the facts and making a non-bias decision. In the end it was decided to inform Duke Energy the Town will no longer be responsible for the street lights and Home Place is off limits. I truly believe that if it had not been for Commissioner Miller’s persistence this would have never been put to rest. This is leadership. As for the contempt of court, this may be a story for another day.
November 30, 2012 injunction “IT IS FURTHER ORDERED, ADJUDGED AND DECREED, that the Plaintiff The Town of Matthews, its officials, employees and agents, licensees and all who act by or through the authority of municipality of any right, title or interest in the roadway denominated “Home Place,” that lies upon the land of the Defendants as described in the deed recorded at Book 4850, page 0639, Mecklenburg County Registry and from entering thereon for any purpose, including construction, repair, improvement or maintenance of the roadway or any fixtures, ditches, markers or signs thereon, without the express permission of the Defendants.”
North Carolina Court of Appeals Judge Hunter statement concerning Home Place as a private road ” (2) if the entire street was public except for the Wright’s thirty-foot private portion of the street. The evidence presented here supports neither circumstance. Instead, the evidence shows that the Wrights have never blocked access to Home Place. Furthermore, although the Wright portion of Home Place is private land, with a right of way to the public for ingress and egress, most of the other landowners’ portions of Home Place have never been dedicated to the Town. It defies reason that the Town would need to condemn only the Wrights’ portion of Home Place in order to “open” the street.”
“The Town asserts that the condemnation serves the following public benefits: (1) neighbors’ access to their land, (2) utility service provider access, (3) fire fighters’ access to water, and (4) general community interconnectedness. Condemnation of the Wrights’ portion of Home Place would only allow for those public benefits on the Wrights’ portion of Home Place, which is at a dead end and landlocked be other individual’s portions of Home Place. Most of the other portions of Home Place have neither been dedicated to the Town as public land nor condemned by the Town. This, opening the Wrights’ thirty-foot portion of Home Place to the public through condemnation will have no effect on the present ability of fire fighters or utility providers to access Home Place as a whole. Similarly, community interconnectedness is not served by opening a small portion of a larger, dead-end street.”
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