Wednesday, June 19, 2024

Herrick Park property being negotiated

Local Editor | May 23, 2023 1:00 AM

WALLACE –– A controversial piece of property in the southern region of Shoshone County is once again being discussed by county officials.

A quiet title suit was filed in April by the Buell Bros. Inc. (the plaintiffs) against the Unknown Heirs of William and Joyce Scofield – the purveyors of the Herrick Park subdivision along the St. Joe River.

The goal of this suit is to establish interest as it pertains to the section of property in question.

When a person has interest in a property, it means they have a right to the property, whether it's through ownership or a security – further, to have ownership interest would mean that they have all of the rights that come with owning a property.

Much of the controversy surrounding this property predates the current Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) – who have now dispatched one of their departments to find a resolution with Buell Bros.

“We have authorized the public works department to engage in negotiations with the plaintiff to protect everyone’s interests as best we can,” BOCC chairman Dave Dose said. “Our stated goals are to secure appropriate space for public service utilities, such as our water truck; and adequate space to turn around and operate, as we have historically. And to do our best to preserve the ability for foot access to this portion of Big Creek, which has been historically accessed by the public at this location.”

This is only the most recent development in a story that dates back to 2021.

In March of 2022, the previous board of commissioners denied a petition from Tri-State Consulting Engineers representing Buell Bros. Inc., requesting that they vacate a portion of land adjacent to Potlatch Road, just before the bridge that follows into Herrick Park.

The petition was heard by the previous board on two occasions, once in 2021 and again in 2022 after it was determined that procedural miscues had taken place during the initial petition.

During the proceedings, Susan Weeks, the legal counsel representing the petitioners, stated that her clients weren’t afforded procedural due process during the process of the first petition.

In the second petition filed in early December 2021, it was claimed that Shoshone County Planning and Zoning provided the BOCC with a staff report supporting the denial of the petition — this same report was sent to the petitioner less than 16 hours before a hearing on Oct. 14, 2021, where it was denied the first time.

The plaintiffs own the property directly east of the creek mouth but they had claimed the chunk of land on the west side of the creek, allegedly through the process of accretion and the use of a quitclaim deed.

The section of land that was being requested for abandonment by the county was roughly 100 feet of county right-of-way that includes a ramp from the road down to the waterfront area below that was constructed and maintained by Shoshone County for the purposes of filling up water trucks for dust control in the area.

The area of land at the bottom of the ramp is adjacent to the mouth of Big Creek and the St. Joe River and is also a popular recreation spot for people using both waterways for boating, floating, and even fishing.

Had they vacated the section of right of way, and allowed the petitioners ownership of the ramp – they would essentially be recognizing the validity of the petitioner’s quitclaim deed and surrendering a valuable access point for them and the general public for free.

Regarding property, accretion is a process where the surface of the land grows due to the recession of a body of water on land that had at one point been covered by it.

A quitclaim deed in the state of Idaho is a legal document that conveys a property from a grantor to the grantee.

This deed is without any form of guarantee that the grantor has the legal authority to sell or transfer the property or that the property has a clean title. Usually, this form of transfer is used in informal agreements such as those between family members or arrangements made during the process of a divorce.

When William Schofield platted the Herrick Park subdivision in the 1960s, he didn’t include the section of property that has been claimed in the quitclaim deed, which almost nullifies any sort of claim or interest on the land in question according to White.

In April 2022, rumors began circulating that the county vacated the property to the petitioners, including the circulation of several maps improperly establishing ownership and providing dates when the county had allegedly approved the vacation.

Shoshone County Prosecuting Attorney Benjamin Allen explained that these maps had been altered and that the dates associated with the alleged vacations were actually the dates of different vacations that happened miles from this location.

The BOCC hired a title specialist in 2022 to look into the situation and compile a records analysis to determine who had interest in the property – if anyone.

The determination that was established was that the county has a right of way to the section of waterway that they are using to fill up their water trucks – as for the property, the interest lies with the Schofields, who didn’t include the piece of owned property in the Herrick Park subdivision when they established it - which is what the ongoing quiet title suit is contending.