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"Road rage - residents, county divided"

"INDIANOLA - Is it a road? Is it a path? Whatever it is, a group of neighbors with picket signs and fliers in hand took to the street Saturday to reclaim Ash Avenue. We've gotten our rights rights taken away, said Chris Moore, an Indianola resident. He and his neighbors have been involved in a year-long dispute with the county about whether Ash Avenue is in fact a road. This is the only way to make our point, he said, looking over at the rest of the group.We've been really nice about it. We just want our road back. Ash, more specifically the 200 foot section linking Seaview to Shore Drive, was closed last week. It made it easy for residents to make the daily run to the post office they said. More critically than that, residents said, it provided an alternate exit in case the other streets were blocked by downed power lines or vehicles. But the road was never theirs to begin with contend county officials and residents along Ash. Because it isn't a road. Looking at it one might wonder if the path is one suitable for pedestrians or Plymouths, but that all depends on what side of the road you are on. From the county's perspective, it is an illegal road opening. We can't allow it to continue just because it's been going on a couple of years, said County Commissioner Chris Endresen. She visited the area Sunday and spoke with several of the protesters. Moore and others submitted a road application in late 1999 and were handed back their money because it was almost certain that the application would be denied said Jim Barnard, with Kitsap County Department of Community Development. A sign was then posted saying no motorized vehicles. Barnard said Ash has site distance issues and needs considerable excavation to ease the slope of the path. There are a lot of unsafe intersections in Indianola, but that's no reason to make another one, Barnard said. Somewhere along the way the sign was removed and gravel was laid down, something that cannot be done without a permit county officials said. The county has four different types of permits - ones for roads the county maintains, permits for unmaintained roads, permits for a road approach and permits for a temporary road. Ash would fall into the unmaintained category Barnard said. The homeowners in the area would have to sign an agreement to take on maintenance of the road. There is conflicting information on what the unpaved road is intended for said Monty Mahan, with the county's public works department. There are people who say they have been driving that road forever and others who say it is a footpath, Mahan said. Watching cars drive down Ash made Gerald Richards, who owns the property abutting the right of way, uneasy. He and a few others contacted the county and told them about the road. The closure of the road is the right thing to do. Indianola is the last green space we've got around here, Richards said. Ron Moore said opening the road is the right thing to do. Moore, who grew up on Harris Street, remembers walking along Ash as a kid. He and the others fighting for the road argue that Ash was established in 1936 and they had a copy of the original plat of the property on display Saturday. The old plats were often drawn out at someone's kitchen table and the lay of the land was not necessarily considered, Barnard said. Up until last year, when new houses were built, roads weren't required to be shown. Driveways connected residents with larger roads and as more people moved in, their driveways were connected to other ones to get access to the property. The Ash dispute has also strained relationships between neighbors, Richards said. And his neighbors agree. I basically lost friends over this, Moore said. So where's the middle of the road when it comes to Ash? Treat this road like the rest of Indianola's roads, said Matt Mattson, who is upset by the road closure. Ash could become one of Indianola's roadways, depending on a transportation study results. Mahan is in the beginning stages of developing a transportation plan for Indianola. Surveys and public meetings are in the works this year to find out what citizens want in way of roads he said. It's reached a high level of controversy for such a little road, Mahan said. I want to go in there and reach a consensus, he said. Endresen hopes the plan can become a model for other communities facing the same rockiness over roads. Suquamish and Manchester are facing the same question about when a driveway becomes a road. Richards said although he prefers not to have a road running through the property, he is open to resolving the road problem in Indianola. If Ash is part of a solution I am for that, he said. "

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