The ongoing litigation between the town of Matthews and Lester and Virginia Wright, a public/private road dispute that has been in a number of different courts since 2004, has finally been settled in favor of the Wrights.
Monday evening, Matthews commissioners permitted Town Manager Hazen Blodgett to pay the couple the $74,570 in attorneys fees as ordered by the court for the latest lawsuit.
The dispute revolved around an area containing Reverdy Lane and Home Place, the dead-end street at the center of the lawsuit, and whether that street was maintained by the state in 1983.
Lester and Virginia “Ginger” Wright live at 1115 Home Place. Several other houses are built on lots beyond theirs, with Home Place serving as the only access to those houses.
In 1983, the area containing Home Place was annexed into Matthews town limits. In 1985, the town took responsibility and maintenance of the streets in the recently annexed area. Those streets previously were maintained by the state.
The town counted Home Place as one of those streets. In 1991, the town paved the road.
Fast forward to 2003, when the Wrights contacted the county zoning administrator to determine if Home Place was a public or private road, when Mecklenburg County issued building permits to their neighbors in 1983. The administrator determined that is was a public road at that time.
The Wrights then took their case to the Matthews Board of Adjustments, which also ruled it a public street.
The couple appealed to the N.C. Court of Appeals. Since that time, the dispute has bounced between courts several times.
One court decided in Matthew’s favor, the next in favor of the Wrights. The legal competition continued until 2014, when the Town Board voted to condemn a half-acre of the Wright property, specifically the portion of the road in front of their house.
The Wrights sued, and the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled against Matthews, saying the condemnation didn’t meet the guidelines for eminent domain.
Left with no legal alternatives, Matthews called it quits and is required to pay the Wrights’ attorneys fees for the condemnation lawsuit.
Property owners beyond the Wright property still have access across the Wright-owned stretch of the road through an easement, but the town will no longer maintain that portion of the street.
Melinda Johnston is a freelance writer: email@example.com.