Sandra and Young Leutwyler live on what the city calls a “street with no name.” But they have a name for it — trouble.
Their white house fronts the rutted lane that runs diagonally off Barnard Street behind chain-link fences that hem in a triangular-shaped sliver of land that belongs to the City of Glen Rose. The lane dead-ends at a high chain-link gate. On the other side is Oakdale Park.
And therein lies the trouble for the Leutwylers. In the more than three decades that she’s lived there, Mrs. Leutwyler said, the gate has remained closed and no one has used the road. When the May family owned Oakdale Park, the gate was padlocked. A now-faded sign that reads “Fire Lane” hangs on the gate's Oakdale side.
“That gate wasn’t opened in 35 years,” Mrs. Leutwyler said.
That changed last Thursday when the rusted lock was cut, the gate opened and road base dumped as work continues to improve roads at the park. And the Leutwylers found out last Friday afternoon, when the Glen Rose City Council agenda was posted for Monday’s meeting, that the council was going to discuss rescinding its previous action to close the lane, remove the fence bordering their driveway and allow the couple to use the triangle-shaped piece of property.
The Leutwylers currently have an easement to allow them access on the road to their property. Last October the council agreed to close the street at the Leutwylers’ request.
They say that they and their granddaughter have trouble backing out of their driveway because of the gate on one side and the chain-link fence. They had wanted to install a double concrete driveway and a carport and in February approached the city about buying the land. They spent $800 to have it surveyed.
At a special meeting, the council decided not to sell the land, but agreed to allow the Leutwylers to use it. The narrow strip and gate could be used as an emergency exit, some council members said. And the city might have a use for the land sometime.
That time could be coming soon. The city wants to keep the land and now there's a tug-of-war between the council and the Leutwylers.
Monday's meeting proved contentious as the Leutwylers, audience members and the council clashed. Councilman Bob Stricklin, who has said in the past he did not want to give up another entrance or exit to Oakale Park, was not present.
Mayor Pro Tem Johnny Martin said he asked City Attorney Andrew Lucas to look into the matter because there was a “lot of confusion” at the special council meeting called at the request of Councilman Chris Bryant, who had spoken with the Leutwylers at length and had agreed they had a valid complaint with the city.
Lucas said it appeared that proper procedures weren’t followed when the council agreed to close the street with no name last October. It turns out that to close a street legally is a complicated process, he said. A petition might be filed to close the street, utilities must approve it and a public hearing must be held.
“It doesn’t look like any of this was done prior to the council’s action last year,” Lucas said. “It needs to be redone to effectively close the street. The procedures weren’t followed properly.”
In retrospect, Martin said, the council acted too quickly to be “accommodating” to the Leutwylers.
“All this was done on a rush-rush and we didn’t do the right things,” Martin said. The council took the action because it believed it could reopen the street at any time.
“All the information was not on the table for us to look at when we made that decision,” Martin said.
Bryant said that the first couple of plans presented for Oakdale Park did not include plans for the tiny piece of land. So why does the city want it now, he and the Leutwylers wanted to know.
Martin pointed out that Gary Ivy, Oakdale Park’s manager hired last year, had not had a chance to look at what to do with property. At last month’s special council meeting, Stricklin and Martin said that the city may have a use for it if the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Safe Routes to School grant, which will build sidewalks in Glen Rose for access to school, wants to put a sidewalk there (see related story on front page). The city also is considering how to link Oakdale Park with the Riverwalk.
Ivy said he told Mrs. Leutwyler he was going to oppose allowing the couple to buy the land because the city may have a use for it.
“It’s because of the tunnel under the road that is planned for $100,000,” Mrs. Leutwyler said to the audience.
“Make your comments to the council,” Martin said.
“I don’t know about a tunnel,” Councilwoman Sue Oldenburg interjected.
Mrs. Leutwyler said that Ivy told her that a tunnel was going under the highway and was going to come up in her front yard.
“I said, ‘you can’t do that,’ Mrs. Leutwyler told the council. “That will flood. That’s idiocy.”
Ivy disputed Mrs. Leutwyler’s recollection of events and conversations. After the council meeting, he said that a tunnel is just one of the possibilities being looked at, in addition to others.
But the bottom line, Martin and Councilman Tom Osborn said, was that the council did not follow the right procedures. As it did when it had to rescind its vote to pay the next mayor a salary, which also didn’t follow municipal law procedures, the process needed to be started again, Osborn said.
Another heated discussion ensued between Martin and Bryant about whether the council’s vote to close the street and let the Leutwylers use the property should stand.
Bryant pointed out that there were two other exits — the front and back gates — to Oakdale Park.
“This is not substantive enough to take back” the previous decisions, Bryant said. “This just isn’t right. Over the last three months we’ve built false hope and they’ve spent money.”
Oldenburg told the Leutwylers she was sorry for their trouble.
“I apologize to you,” she said. “I should have done better research when this was done in October.”
In addition to having the property surveyed, the Leutwylers said they have included the strip of land on their property insurance.
“It was not done properly and it has to be redone,” Osborn said.
“The vote was still valid,” Bryant responded.
“Was the vote valid on the mayor’s pay?” Osborn asked.
“No, sir,” Bryant said. But on the property matter, he said the vote should stay the same and the paperwork should be redone.
Martin said Bryant should have let the council know what it was voting on and that if Bryant knew that the Leutwylers had wanted the property, he should have let them know before he did.
“You should have shared it with the rest of us,” Martin said.
“Until this matter is settled, are you going to put a road through there?” Mrs. Leutwyler wanted to know.
“It is a city street,” Martin said. Eventually, it could be paved, curbed and lit.
That means anybody could use it, Bryant pointed out. He said that could cause safety issues for the Leutwylers if an RV broke down on the street and an ambulance needed to get to the house.
“We’re rushing to make this vote and no investigation,” Bryant said. “For some reason we’re rushing to reopen that street.”
“We’ve got 2,300 citizens of Glen Rose we need to consider the best interest of,” Martin said. “If we back up, we can look at it. The rush was the first time we did this.”
Martin, Osborn and Oldenburg voted to rescind the council’s previous action. Bryant voted against.
Mrs. Leutwyler had tears in her eyes when she left the meeting. She had put lawn chairs and tables on the sliver of land and said she had enjoyed sitting in the shade and thinking her trail of trouble might be over. She said she has endured noise, campers tying their tents and dogs to her fence and other problems from Oakdale Park over the years.
“What bothers me the most,” she said of the city council's action, “is they went back on their word.”