Supreme Court Issues Ruling In Favor of Stephens Co. Over Road Controversy

The Georgia Supreme Court has overturned a lower court’s ruling requiring Stephens County to maintain a road it had chosen to abandon.

In a unanimous ruling issued last week, the Georgia Supreme Court overturned a 2011 Stephens County Superior Court ruling that overturned the county’s decision to abandon Winding Bluff Road and required the county to repair and maintain the road.

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.

According to court documents, the road began to suffer heavy damage after heavy rains in both August 2008 and September 2009.

County commissioners voted to abandon the road in 2011.

Former County Administrator John Rutan said in 2011 that the road was not safe for public use, the expected cost to make it safe was $600,000 to $800,000 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 said county staff had concerns in 2007, but the county still accepted the road. They also say they did not mislead the county about the road and claim the county’s failure to maintain the road once it was accepted has contributed to its poor condition.

In October 2011, a 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.

In its ruling, the state Supreme Court said 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, adding that the conclusion of the Superior Court that abandonment was not in the best public interest inappropriately substituted the court’s view of the evidence and public interest for that of the county commission.

The Supreme Court also remanded the case back to the Superior Court to address a number of counterclaims made by the county against the developers.

Motions for reconsideration must be filed by Friday, according to court documents