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Vernon faces issue with town’s Sportsplex property

Kevin Boyer
kboyer@chipleypaper.com
Washington County News

VERNON- The small town of Vernon has tight bond within its community and a love of sports with much of its’s activity surrounding the town’s coveted sportsplex, located on Moss Hill Road just across from Vernon High School. But now that is at risk due to a matter of property rights according to city hall.

Town Clerk Tracy Walker, said residents may lose access to the park soon. She said the driveway gaining access to the sportsplex is actually owned by a private individual and they are is threatening to put up a fence preventing citizens to gain access to the property.

Walker said the owner, James Harris, who inherited property from which includes the driveway to the sportsplex, informed the city that a lease executed between his parents and the city granting use of the driveway had expired.

According to lease, dated in 1997, then owners J.D. and Joyce Harris, granted Vernon the use of the property for 25 years, provided they pay $1.00 a year.

Harris said that the city never paid the one dollar they were required in all of the time they were required to.

Walker said in going back to through records, the city could not find any official records where the city had paid the Harris’s the dollar a year per the agreement, but said the city had sent James Harris a check.

“He sent the check back with a letter stating that if we do not agree with his demands then it is his intent to put up a fence,” Walker said.

Harris said he had been willing and trying to work with the city for a long time until it got to the point that, “it became impossible.” Walker said that he had been trying to work with the county on doing a property switch with another parcel and even had been working on other ideas to help remedy the situation until it became to the point he just gave up.

“They did this to themselves,” Harris said. “I’m not in a generous mood anymore.”

Harris said he will continue to lease the property to city for two years for $525.

Walker said it is sad to see that it is come to this point and to see that the sportsplex could be blocked for public use.

“The land owner said that he is all about kids, according to the council but now he is threatening to block their access.” she said.

Harris said in his letter that if a settlement could not be reached the property would be closed by February 1st.

“I regret this action but I am not acceptable to the original offer,” he said in his letter. “I will place a sign of notification of the reason of closure on the property...I know there will be some upset people and I hope this can be avoided.”

At the time of this publication, Harris said he had already drawn lines on the property in preparation to put up the fence.