I-Team Special Report Update: Who owns Baker Lane? - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

I-Team Special Report Update: Who owns Baker Lane?

Posted: Updated: Jun 19, 2014 07:28 PM
Is it really a road in Mississippi County and, if so, who owns it? Is it really a road in Mississippi County and, if so, who owns it?
Located just outside East Prairie, the newly graveled road runs from Main Street. Located just outside East Prairie, the newly graveled road runs from Main Street.
Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett told the two families that Baker Lane is actually a county road. Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett told the two families that Baker Lane is actually a county road.
Commissioner Jones said Baker Lane will be moved Friday morning beginning at 8 a.m. Commissioner Jones said Baker Lane will be moved Friday morning beginning at 8 a.m.
Stallings said she’ll go back to work trying to sell the two acres she owns alongside the lane. Stallings said she’ll go back to work trying to sell the two acres she owns alongside the lane.
MISSISSIPPI COUNTY, MO (KFVS) -

Nearly a month after we first told you about the fight over Baker Lane, it took more than a few days to resolve the problem; and just when you think it's fixed, think again.

"We had to get to this point because my property had a cloud over it," Kaye Stallings said on Monday, July 14 as work began to move Baker Lane several feet over and off of the property she's trying to sell.

As the grader scooped and scraped Baker Lane off of her property, it did not smooth out the differences that led to the move.

"As far as me, I don't think it was necessary," Commissioner Darrell Jones said. "I don't know how it came to get to this point. It is what it is."

The county commission extended Baker Lane several months ago onto Stallings' property, she said without her permission.

They maintained it was a county road, so they could do as they saw fit.

However, a few weeks later, they offered to physically move the road off of Stallings' land and onto the land of neighbor Gary Hancock, a plan he welcomed, and one that took several weeks to work out.

"We had to have the properties legally surveyed instead of taking somebody's word for it from years gone by," Jones explained. "And we've moved the rock over to where it's supposed to be. We actually re-created Baker Lane."

As Stallings and her brother Mike watched the work, they still sounded a little uneasy about this ending up the way she would like.

"I'm glad to see them down here and we're trying to work together to get this finalized," she said.

It's clear Mike Stallings remained disgusted with the whole deal.

"After two years of battling over our own ground, the county's been out I don't know how many thousands of dollars for one man's happiness," he said. "I suppose we'll never know that answer."

The Stallings have always said the extension of Baker Lane solely benefited Hancock, his rental properties and his businesses.

However, Commissioner Jones stressed that the effort is designed to please both property owners.

"We've got the road back where it should be," he said. "And I think Ms. Stallings will be happy with it."

So, will this effort clear the road to a resolution along Baker Lane?

"I'm hoping that we can," Stallings said. "It's looking that way. Yes, I believe we're going to be able to."

"To make everyone happy, I think it was worth it," Jones said. "I'm not going to say it was necessary, but it was probably worth it in the end."

But, $15,000 and a day of work later, Kaye Stallings said she's still not satisfied. She maintains that a portion of Baker Lane is still on her land. She said Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett is meeting her on Friday, July 18 to fix it, once and for all.

Previously we told you that just outside East Prairie, the newly graveled road called Baker Lane ran from Main Street, around a large tree line, then looped tightly through two more trees.

At one time, Baker Lane actually ran under a man's carport, then through his parking lot to Highway 105.

Seems crazy, right?

The carport has been taken down, but the lane is still at the center of a property dispute that has one family accusing Mississippi County leaders of actually stealing their land.

"I never could sell it because I never knew where my property actually was anymore," Kaye Stallings said.

Stallings contacted us several weeks ago to find out if the county had the right to gravel and extend Baker Lane onto her property without her permission.

"It was like a gang of men picking on my sister and it went to the point of a few feet of dirt that went nowhere," Mike Stallings said of what Kaye experienced.

The Stallings and neighboring property owner Gary Hancock went to the Mississippi County Commission last October looking for help.

Kaye Stallings wanted to sell her land, and didn't want traffic on her part of Baker Lane.

Hancock said she was upset because he wouldn't buy the land from her.

It was Hancock’s carport that Baker Lane actually ran underneath. It’s his business parking lot that it dumps into before it reaches Highway 105.

But at that October 2013 meeting, Presiding Commissioner Carlin Bennett told the two families that Baker Lane is actually a county road since the county has maintained it for at least 10 years.

As the commission records from that date show, all parties agreed if the county graveled and extended the lane out to Highway 105, they'd all agree it's a county road.

The problem for Kaye and Mike is how Baker Lane looked when crews finished.

The once dirt lane was now graveled several feet onto Stallings’ property, but not extended any farther onto Hancock’s land. And, remember, it ran underneath one of Hancock’s carports into the parking lot of his hotel and rental business.

"As a brother, as wanting to sell this, and as a taxpayer coming through here, no it was the most craziest thing I ever seen," Mike Stallings said of the new Baker Lane.

Despite Commissioner Bennett's claims, the county cannot offer any proof Baker Lane was legally established under Missouri law as a county road, consistently maintained for at least ten years, or used state fund to maintain it for at least five. He points to photos showing the lane has been around a long time.

But, a search of county commission records dating back to 1996 at our request found no formal action taken to establish Baker Lane as a county road.

Richard Wallace has served as Mississippi County engineer for 30 years. We asked him about the maintenance and creation of Baker Lane.

“We’ve touched it up probably once, twice a year for many a moon,” Wallace said.

"Do you recall when this first became a county road what kind of process took place in order to establish it?" we asked.

"Not really," he answered. "It was before my time."

Fred Burgess worked for Kaye's brother PeeWee Stallings on the property from the mid 1990s to 2010.

"Did you ever see a county maintenance crew grading that road, dropping gravel, mowing grass, doing any kind of work?" we asked him.

"No, not whatsoever," Burgess said. "I would just call it a driveway for the trailer park. That's about it."

Commissioner Bennett exchanged numerous emails and phone calls with us. He assured us he could prove Baker Lane is a county road, and therefore Stallings had nothing to be upset about and, frankly, we'd have no story.

Then, on the evening of June 12 he had a change of heart. Mr. Bennett sent me an email, offering what he called a solution to the problem.

On June 13, I met with Commissioners Darrell Jones and Mitch Pullen, along with Engineer Wallace and property owner Hancock. Commissioner Bennett told us he was out of town and could not attend.

"I want to do anything I can to help Ms. Stallings feel comfortable with what's going on out here," Hancock said.

"When I stand down towards my shop looking this direction, my whole road could come this way if the Commissioners would help me out here a little bit," he said as he points to a strip of grass running alongside Baker Lane on his property.

And that's exactly what Commissioner Darrell Jones said they plan to do.

"We're going to start right here, if she gives us permission,” Jones said of Kaye Stallings, “and role all the rock directly over to the west, to actually move the county road all on Mr. Hancock's property. And hopefully take care of the problem."

"Basically we're a small community," Commissioner Pullen said. "These guys are neighbors and they need to resolve it. And if we can do any part to take care of that, we want to do it."

Commissioner Bennett asked us to share the offer with Kaye and Mike. We called Jones back to say the Stallings would meet to try and hammer out a deal with them the next day.

"I feel good if they will do it," she said. "The last time wasn't so good, so we'll see if they mean it."

Commissioner Jones said Baker Lane will be moved Friday morning beginning at 8 a.m. He said the work should take a few hours, and cost the county roughly $500.

Once she marks her property lines, Stallings said she’ll go back to work trying to sell the two acres she owns alongside the lane.

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