published Tuesday, March 5th, 2013

Aetna Mountain Road problem put on hold

JASPER, Tenn. — When a landowner asked the Marion County Commission for help with accessing his property last month, officials didn't realize the mass of information they would have to wade through to reach a conclusion.

In February, Steve Perlacky, who owns about 500 acres on Aetna Mountain, said the right of entry to his property on the Marion side has been cut off by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

The TWRA has posted signs along Aetna Mountain Road prohibiting motor vehicles, Perlacky said, and that cuts off access to his property.

The board instructed Marion County Attorney Billy Gouger to look into the matter, but he has asked for more time to compile "a full report and recommendation."

He said he thinks officials "underestimated last month the quantity of information available on the status of Aetna Mountain Road."

Gouger said he has spoken with Perlacky and his attorney in recent weeks, and the information he has gathered so far is "just too voluminous" to work through at this point.

The TWRA has been in contact with County Mayor John Graham's office about the status of the road as far as the county is concerned, officials said.

Kirk Miles, wildlife program manager for the resources agency, said Perlacky can access his property in other ways, and that the blocked path isn't really a road.

Tennessee law states basically that the matter has to come to county leaders because it deals with a public road, Perlacky said in February, and it's up to the board to file a lawsuit if it discovers that some kind of violation has occurred.

County Road Superintendent Neal Webb disputes Perlacky's claim that the problem is the county's responsibility.

"It does not involve us at all," he said last month. "It is not a Marion County road on that side [of the mountain]."

Gouger said he will need to "work through some issues" with Webb about the status of the road based on the information he has seen so far.

"I need help," Perlacky said. "I can't get to my property right now. This is a problem. I could hike there, but if I can't drive there, it's a significant disadvantage for enjoying my property that I'm paying taxes on."

Discussion on the problem was postponed until the board's regular meeting on March 25.

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