An abandoned country road will serve as a boundary between two rural Clinton County properties, a Clinton County judge has ruled.

Though multiple surveys indicated that the disputed property line was actually 12 to 15 feet east of some sections of the road, the adjoining property owners had acquiesced that the road itself was the boundary for several years. According to court documents, the Clinton County Board of Supervisors abandoned a portion of 360th Avenue in 2008 at the request of Randall Martens, who owns three acres adjacent to the lane. Martens hoped to build a homestead on the land, but the road needed significant repairs to make it more accessible.

The property on the other side of the road belongs to plaintiffs Paul and Sharon Leonard. In 2010, Martens, using information from one of four surveys conducted on the property, drove steel T fence posts on the surveyed section line, which prevented the Leonards from using parts of the lane. According to court documents, this action initiated the dispute.

The District Court found that, for as long as 33 years, the adjacent property owners, which include Martens’ parents, Lawrence and Jean Martens, accepted the county road as a boundary between land parcels. A century-old law states that if two parties acquiesce that a boundary exists, after 10 years, it becomes the accepted line, whether or not it was originally intended to be.

The court found that both land owners built fences alongside the lane. The Leonards built a structure and farmed land that encroached upon a former right of way for several years, and planted trees on either side of the road. The Martens allowed the presence of the trees and accepted the Leonards use of the road for many years. 

For these reasons, and more, the court argues that both parties likely assumed the road was the boundary and held that belief for several years. From this point forward, the nominal center line of the lane as it existed upon the vacation of the county’s easement in 2008 shall serve as the property line.

Additionally, the court found that the county had completed its obligated responsibilities following its abandonment of the road, and the Leonards claim for damages was dismissed. Court costs of both cases, $249.74, will be taxed to Randall Martens.

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