Blaine County will not be allowed to make any physical changes to Lee’s Gulch Road before a decision is made by the court on whether to uphold the county’s determination that the road is public, a judge ruled on Wednesday, though the property owners who claim the road is private must continue to allow public access during the legal proceedings.

Property owners Richard and Kathleen Gouley and Wendy Chase first filed a petition for judicial review in October, asking the 5th District Court in Hailey to overturn a decision by the county commissioners the previous month to validate Lee’s Gulch Road as a county road and public highway.

“The declaration that Lee’s Gulch Road is a county and public highway causes immediate and irreparable impacts to the petitioners’ property rights, including direct harm to their property values and to the petitioners’ use and enjoyment of their property,” the petition states.

Until an official determination is made by the court, an attorney representing the property owners argued in a hearing Wednesday, the county should not be allowed to take actions such as changing, expanding or widening the road.

Blaine County doesn’t regularly maintain the road and has no plans to widen, pave or improve it, the county’s attorney told the court, though the county has periodically maintained it in the past to ensure that the public is able to access Bureau of Land Management property nearby.

Administrative District Judge Eric Wildman ultimately determined that the county will not be permitted to make any physical changes to the road while legal decisions are pending, but the property owners must continue to allow public access on the road and take no steps to impede or block access—conditions that both the county and the property owners agreed to.

Email the writer: gkauffman@mtexpress.com

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