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Bugli v. Ravalli County

Supreme Court of Montana

July 9, 2019

ZACKARY JAY BUGLI, TRACY BUGLI, WADE COX and CHARLENE COX; and VIOLET COX, as Trustee of the Cox Family Trust, Petitioners and Appellants,
v.
RAVALLI COUNTY, a political subdivision of the State of Montana, Respondent and Appellee.

          Submitted on Briefs: April 3, 2019

          APPEAL FROM: District Court of the Twenty-First Judicial District, In and For the County of Ravalli, Cause No. DV-2017-320 Honorable Jeffrey H. Langton, Presiding Judge

          For Appellants: Martin S. King, Jesse C. Kodadek, Worden Thane, P.C., Missoula, Montana

          For Appellee: William E. Fulbright, Ravalli County Attorney, Daniel Browder, Deputy County Attorney, Hamilton, Montana

          OPINION

          MIKE MCGRATH CHIEF JUSTICE

         ¶1 Zackary Bugli, Tracy Bugli, Wade Cox, Charlene Cox, and Violet Cox (Landowners) appeal from a Twenty-First Judicial District Court order denying Landowners' Verified Petition for a Writ of Review & Injunctive Relief. We affirm.

         ¶2 This Court restates the issue on appeal as follows:

Whether the District Court abused its discretion by denying Landowners' petition for a writ of review on the basis that Landowners failed to show the Board exceeded its jurisdiction in the proceedings related to Landowners' petition to abandon a portion of Hughes Creek Road.

         FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND

         ¶3 This dispute concerns where Hughes Creek Road, a county road built in 1900, ends and private property begins. Hughes Creek Road begins at its junction with West Fork Road near the confluence of Hughes Creek and the West Fork of the Bitterroot River. Landowners, relying on a map created in 1965 (1965 Map), assert that the county portion of Hughes Creek Road extends roughly nine miles. The Ravalli County Board of County Commissioners (Board) found that Hughes Creek Road extends roughly twelve miles, and that the historical record, taken as a whole, contradicts the 1965 Map. The Historical Record

         ¶4 Hughes Creek Road was built in 1900 to access mining claims held by the Woods Placer Mining Company. The petition creating the county road and an entry in an early road plat book reflect that Hughes Creek Road commenced near the post office in Alta, Montana, and ran east along Hughes Creek for "about twelve miles." Ravalli County (County) initially maintained the full length of Hughes Creek Road with a four-horse team and a County-owned grader. The historical record further evidences that the United States Forest Service (USFS) constructed a trailhead at the end of the road.

         ¶5 In 1965, the County and USFS entered into an agreement for the maintenance of Hughes Creek Road. The 1965 Map, created in conjunction with the 1965 road maintenance agreement, depicted the end of the county road at the western end of Mining Survey 5883, roughly nine miles from its junction with West Fork Road. In 1981, the County and USFS amended the 1965 maintenance agreement, for which the 1965 Map was created. The amended maintenance agreement stated that Hughes Creek Road was twelve miles long, with 8.4 miles graded and 3.4 miles primitive. The agreement was again amended in 2010, stating Hughes Creek Road was 11.8 miles long, with 7.8 miles graded and 4 miles primitive.

         ¶6 In the late 1970s, landowners erected a locked gate across Hughes Creek Road at roughly nine miles from the road's junction with West Fork Road, consistent with the point depicted by the 1965 Map as the end of the county road.

         ¶7 In 1982, landowners on Hughes Creek Road, including Landowners and their predecessors in interest, petitioned the Board for abandonment of the road beyond the gate. The Board denied the petition, found that Hughes Creek Road extended 11.8 miles and provided access to a USFS trailhead and federally-managed public lands, and ordered the gate removed.

         ¶8 In 1984, the County filed suit seeking removal of two gates across Hughes Creek Road and a temporary restraining order for their removal. While the District Court orally denied the County's request for a temporary restraining order, the case was later dismissed by stipulation, and no final judgment was entered. Bugli v. Ravalli Cty., 2018 MT 177, ¶¶ 4, 12, 392 Mont. 131, 422 P.3d 131 (Bugli I).

         ¶9 Landowners' current gate obstructs Hughes Creek Road at roughly 8.5 miles from its junction with West Fork Road, whereas the 1965 Map depicts the end of the County Road at roughly nine miles. Due to their reliance on the 1965 Map, Landowners acknowledged their gate obstructed four-tenths of a mile of the county portion of Hughes Creek Road.

         Landowners' 2016 Petition for Abandonment

         ¶10 On, July 25, 2016, Landowners petitioned the Board to abandon the four-tenths of a mile of Hughes Creek Road between their gate and the exact point depicted by the 1965 Map. Landowners did not want to move their gate or create a new turnaround. Landowners asserted that abandonment affected only the landowners listed in the petition, and that the road, according to the 1965 Map, did "not reach or touch any public land in the area subject to abandonment." As such, the provisions of § 7-14-2615(3), MCA, were inapplicable.

         The Board's Denial of Landowners' 2016 ...


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