NEW PORT RICHEY — The judge presiding over a property dispute that led to a fence being erected down the middle of a street told both sides Friday to try to work it out.
Circuit Judge Lowell Bray said his options under the law are limited in DCH Timber vs. Coastal Landfill.
In the lawsuit, DCH owner Barbara Ryals says the landfill operation has been trespassing, running its dump trucks across her land at least 100 times a day. But that land is actually a road — Houston Avenue, off U.S. 19 in Hudson. The portion of the road in dispute is private, with the individual property owners holding claim to the piece of the road fronting their land.
DCH Timber, a 520-acre timber grove, owns the north half of Houston. Several homes sit on the south side, and Coastal Landfill, a construction debris site and sand mine, lies at the east end.
Ryals' suit says Coastal has installed sprinklers and dumped rubble to widen and improve the unpaved road, all of which constitutes trespassing, the suit argues. Finally last month, Ryals had enough and installed a fence of wooden posts laced with barbed wire along her property line, running down the middle of Houston Avenue.
Several neighbors have complained that the fence cuts off access to their homes — there is currently only one usable lane of Houston — and impedes emergency vehicles that might need to get in.
Landfill attorney Shelly Johnson sought an injunction Friday to have the fence removed. Coastal owner Eric Cash testified that since he bought the property in 1997, the road has always been the way in and out of the landfill.
The hearing before Bray ran short of time, so the two sides didn't finish presenting their cases. The matter will be reset.
But before both sides left, Bray said mediation might be the best hope for a resolution, since a trial would only lead to expensive appeals.
The judge even offered that the two sides could agree to donate the road to Pasco County.
"You folks have unlimited options," Bray said. "You can buy, sell or trade."
Molly Moorhead can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6245.