Stephens Co. Attorney Comments on End on Winding Bluff Case

August 6, 2013

The case over Winding Bluff Road is officially closed.

In a court document last month, the road’s developers agreed to not ask the Georgia Supreme Court to reconsider its unanimous decision made last month that StephensCounty was in fact allowed to abandon the road and not maintain it, overturning a lower court ruling.

In return, the county dropped all counterclaims against the developers who built the road.

Stephens County Attorney Brian Ranck said the county is pleased that the case has come to a conclusion in favor of the county.

“We feel like it saved the county taxpayers a substantial amount of money,” said Ranck.  “We are happy that our understanding of the law as it pertains to counties and road abandonments was upheld and the Supreme Court agreed with us.  We think it is a big decision as it pertains to StephensCounty and the taxpayers.  We are obviously happy that the Supreme Court ruled that way.  We respect the lower courts and the role they played in the decision-making process, but we are glad the Supreme Court overturned the Superior Court decision.”

Ranck also credited the developers’ attorney, Jim Cornwell, for his work in representing his clients in the case.

Winding Bluff Road was built by KM Development Corporation and Stephens County Commissioners accepted the road in 2007.

It is located off of Summit Ridge   Drive, just west of Toccoa.

County commissioners voted to abandon the road in 2011 after officials say it suffered substantial damage during heavy rains in 2008 and 2009.

At the time, former Stephens County Administrator John Rutan said the road was not safe for public use, the expected cost to fix it was $600,000 to $800,00, and the public was not using the road.  He also claimed the road’s failure was primarily attributable to improper construction by the developer.

Developers contested the abandonment of the road and in October 2011, a Stephens County Superior Court ruling stated that the commission’s decision to abandon the road was an abuse of discretion and not in the public interest and the court ordered the county to repair and maintain the road.

However, the state Supreme Court ruled last month that the county commission had enough evidence to support its decision and that there was no basis for the Superior Court to issue that ruling, stating that the county could in fact abandon the road.

According to Ranck, the Supreme Court’s decision rendered all of the county’s other counterclaims moot, meaning the case could be brought to conclusion.

As a result, Winding Bluff Road will now be a private road and receive no county maintenance.

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