Zac Brown, country star, loses easement dispute at planning commission - Must Read Alaska
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Tuesday, October 15, 2019
HomeThe 907Zac Brown, country star, loses easement dispute at planning commission

Zac Brown, country star, loses easement dispute at planning commission

The Mary Trail faction has won a round in the fight a controversial easement that cuts through land owned by a celebrity just outside the Homer city limits. The Kenai Borough Planning Commission on Monday night voted 5-4 against the vacation of the easement.

The vote is advisory; the Department of Natural Resources will make the final decision.

Grammy-award winning country singer Zac Brown, trying to keep people off of the land he owns overlooking Homer, was the first to testify about his request to end the public access easement across his land. In an untucked plaid shirt and jeans, and with his Georgia drawl, he spoke about wanting to keep his kids safe, as well as his love for the community he has come to call home.

“My story, when I first came to Homer I fell in love with the place, and I knew that I was going to spend time here,” he said. “I have five small children, ages five to 12, and I found some property and some people in Homer who I really liked a lot, and thought that I’d find some privacy in the community at the end of a cul-de-sac. And I purchased some other property around me to try to have a buffer.”

Brown, being the star that he is, is sensitive to security of his family: “Throughout my history of owning property, I’ve had people break into my house, and come into my house because of my profession. I am a musician. I’ve had success doing that, but I don’t really want attention unless I’m on stage somewhere. I’ve come here to have privacy and be a member of the community.”

He went on to describe how he bought several lots below his homesite to ensure his privacy and then was approached by John Fowler, who also owns lots below him, and who tried to sell him the land at far-inflated values.

“Then he sat me down at breakfast, he asked me to go to breakfast, and he told me that if I didn’t purchase his property, he was going to start sending hikers up through my property, up through a section line that was there. The section line is for  those who are landlocked within a piece of property so they can have access to their place if there’s not proper access.

“So I didn’t like the idea of being bullied or extorted and I told Mr. Fowler ‘No thank you, if you want to get a favor from me as a neighbor, you’re not going to get there by trying to extort me.’

“He (Fowler) told me that other people would soon be on this mission,” Brown said.

This was the same set of details he gave to radio hosts Michael Dukes and Chris Story last week.

[Read: Country star at wits end in land dispute]

Some 20 other people testified as well — some who lived nearby and were witnessing the trespassing first hand. Others who were for or against Brown’s request to remove the easement that people had started using to traipse across his land.

The leader of the Zac Brown Band described to the commission the harassment of his family after he started building a home on the bluff.

The home is in the borough, and some claim the section line easement going through his property has continuous historic use as a trail. Pro-trail testifiers said they have been using the trail for years and Brown should have known when he bought the land that there was a trail through it.

Brown and others said that there’s been a growing campaign of harassment encouraged by a writer, Michael Armstrong, who works for the Homer News, and Borough Assembly member Willy Dunne.

One testifier said he has video evidence of Dunne trespassing on the land.

The case pits the rights of land owners against the desires of people to use easements as trails.

Brown has the option to build a fence along the easement to keep people from wandering up to his house or cutting new trails across his land from below.

That could help with his privacy but won’t fix the problem that has developed along his dead-end road with celebrity tourists driving down the road by the carloads to take pictures of his house. Neighbors told Must Read Alaska that up to 50 cars a day are driving to the end of the dead-end road, and at times have walked through the construction site. All of them take pictures of the house under construction and of the other homes along the road.

Three section line easement vacations were approved by the Planning Commission on Tuesday. But Zac Brown’s easement wasn’t one of them.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Homer, that is so disappointing. Next time AAR Convention is in Homer, or anywhere on the peninsula, you’ve given me a great reason to stay home. That makes me sad in a way as I almost moved to Kenai when my children were small. Came back, sold my condo, went to break up with the boyfriend and ended up with a diamond on my hand. Always loved visiting there. Doesn’t look like I will again.

  • He’s definitely a whiner. He has talked the neighbors into trying to turn the whole street private so they can have a gated community for his privacy. Shutting down the public easement is just more of that. He complains that Fowler wants the trail because it will help sell his lots and increase the values. Yet what he is trying to do has the same effect of making his and the neighbors property values go up instead.

    If he really wanted privacy he could of bought different property like I have. My driveway is a 1/3 of a mile long and no one can see my place unless they fly over it. Like Trump says if you don’t like it why don’t you go back to where you came from. You come up here and then try to change everything to what you want without taking into consideration other people who have lived here for years. When people don’t agree with him they are picking on him.
    I would think the people of Homer would want more trails especially the historical ones on right aways preserved for future generations.

    • Go around, he owns the land !!! Now days you never know who is trespassing on your property — meth heads, crackheads, all out for no good!!! Go Zac!!!

  • I’m in tears. One bullfrog bumps against another, what else could one expect? I’ve lived in Homer for some time and the bullfrog story is long and sordid. I’m no wizard, but I’d place a bet on what the above fellow, Leslie, said about Zak’s intentions. Welcome to Homer, Zak!

    • I am thankful the final decision will be determined by the DNR. Many of the statements made at Monday night meeting were untrue . It seems time that both pro and con testimonies should require proof. Willy Dunne and his cohorts are doing all they can to show an ugly side of human nature. I believe the majority of this area thinks it really great Zak Brown has chosen our area. If this issue ever comes to the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Assembly Dunne should be asked to vacate his seat.

  • This is a dispute between neighbors. It either is an established historical trail on an section line easement or it isn’t. There is no need for the rest of us to make any judgments about the principles or the community of Homer.

    Move along – move along – there is nothing to see here.

    • This is not a dispute between neighbors. 100% of the neighbors support the vacation. Your comment is the result of false rumors spread by a anti-property rights group.

    • Mike, I respectfully disagree. This is a conflict between a new arrived property owner who wants to assert his right to exclude all others on his private property; and a group of trail users who believe that a public easement was already in place by prescription, that is, it’s a designated trail because of continuous use that was not challenged or prevented by the previous property owner. Actually, this property was encumbered prior to ZB’s purchase and it should have been steeply discounted at sale. A properly conducted title search should have also revealed this prior to sale.

  • We live in a huge state.Unlike most states where most of the property is privately owned,only one percent of Alaska’s land is privately owned. And that’s sad. And now we have some people in Alaska, that don’t appreciate peoples private property. They want to infringe and act as if the person’s privacy doesn’t matter, simply because they want to. They want to be able to cut through peoples yards and usurp the land as if it’s their own. People have paid a high price for their property with stunning views. There are many other places people can go to see the stunning views for anyone who wants to enjoy the beauty of Homer, but no, they want to see it on somebody else’s property. They want to ruin the tiny one percent of peoples private property. Apparently they believe one percent of private property in Alaska is too much for any free people to own. Everyone of those private property owners involved in the vacation of the easement want it vacated, and they deserve it to be vacated. How dare you be so self righteous and self serving to try and ruin somebody else’s right to privacy and private property. How dare you ruin the peoples Alaskan experience in their own homes and property. People need to feel safe and secure in their own persons. How dare you infringe on The peoples Constitutional rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Every Alaskan and American should be hearing about this as it affects all Americans, This is not over. There are some people here who claim there is some historical trail that crosses over Zac Brown’s property, that they have a right to go on even though it’s Zac’s property. That is a lie because The State of Alaska has already rejected that claim. The State of Alaska rejected the claim that there is a historical trail connecting to Zacs property. And the people who refuse to accept that decision are trying to override it because they want to. There are people making claims like this all over the place and some turn out to be a historical trail and some don’t. This one turns out not to be recognized as a historical trail. Therefore there is no legitimate reason to keep the easement open. The public has no right to trample around those peoples homes and yards as there is no legitimate reason to do so.Patriots should be rushing to this debate otherwise you will continue to lose your private property rights. And The Kenai Borough Planning Commission needs to be cleaned up. As you have at least 2 members who publicly stated in the meeting they don’t care what anyone thinks about it and they stated they will always vote against anyone’s easement section lines no matter what. Those 2 have a biased socialist agenda they are trying to force on the rest of us. They are not objective. There names are Paulette Borenko Carluccio and Franco Venuti. Good thing the planning commission does not have the final word. Why doesn’t the borough platting office handle the vacation? The 1999 legislature passed a new state law, AS 29.35.090, prohibiting local government from vacating RS 2477 rights-of-way. DNR believes that the local platting authority’s role is still very important, allowing representation of local interests and legal notice to nearby landowners who might be affected by a vacation. (Unlike tax records kept by a borough, DNR’s land status plats do not show private landholdings.) However, to ensure that a statewide perspective is taken, only DNR and the Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, or the legislature itself can make the final decision to vacate an RS 2477 right-of-way. AS 19.30.410.

    • If he put up a fence, he would be separating himself from the friendly neighbors he has. How sad.

    • Point of correction — ANCSA corporation lands are also private (not state or federal). That’s about 40+ million acres.

      RS-2477 easements apply to federal lands. If there was no RS-2477 listed on the plats at the time of conveyance from the feds, there is no 2477 easement.

    • I did attend the meeting from beginning to the bitter end.

      At one point one voting member openly stated that she was against vacating section line easments..

      Odd , strange, statement to blurt out but that she did!

      Now, I am a simple person but justice matters. It matters for poor people it matters to middle income people it matters to wealthy people. We are all to be treated the same under the law, rules, statues , and in search of justice.

      I would like it know that voting commissioner never expressed being against vacating section line easements on any of the 3 earliest cases?????

      When dealing with the Zac Brown easement that had 100% approval of all land owning, tax paying parties and was desired for stated rational reasons of safety and privacy for the community …….that’s when she admitted publicly she was against vacating section lines.

      I am left with a feeling that I witnessed open , blatant personal bias for which conflicts with their ability to perform the duties as a commissioner of planning per the statues and prescient to handle disputes in a community whence they remove a standard legal option as a resolution

      • Just curious, how did that dissenting member vote on the other three vacations? (I looked at the Planning website, but the minutes aren’t up yet).

  • I remember when Homer was nothing but a few dirt roads and a spit. You’d have to hike down a trail to get to a friend’s cabin or take a horse out to the Russian community.
    My hope is the Alaskan way of life will be preserved. Alaskans help each other out and we share resources with our neighbors. Alaskans also respect each other’s privacy. And in between, moose and bears roam around.

  • Life on the Old Plateau.
    Once to the top of the ridge.
    Once on my own, said I, was up there.

    Bother your preference.
    Live with it.
    Exit tile

    • Mark and Preserve ALL Easements.

    • Poetic justice. Homer’s way.

  • Just received this email from Dianne MacRae of Kasilof.

    “I did attend the meeting from beginning to the bitter end.

    At one point one voting member openly stated that she was against vacating section line easements.

    Odd , strange, statement to blurt out but that she did!

    Now, I am a simple person but justice matters. It matters for poor people it matters to middle income people it matters to wealthy people. We are all to be treated the same under the law, rules, statues , and in search of justice.

    I would like it know that voting commissioner never expressed being against vacating section line easements on any of the 3 earliest cases?????

    When dealing with the Zac Brown easement that had 100% approval of all land owning, tax paying parties and was desired for stated rational reasons of safety and privacy for the community …….that’s when she admitted publicly she was against vacating section lines.

    I am left with a feeling that I witnessed open , blatant personal bias for which conflicts with their ability to perform the duties as a commissioner of planning per the statues and prescient to handle disputes in a community whence they remove a standard legal option as a resolution.”

  • Brown should have known when he bought the land? Quite possibly it should have been brought to his attention.

    • what are you a moron? Of course he knows. The issue is the radicals want to overide the will of all the property owners involved

      • Tut tut kearbear offspring, be careful not to follow in mom’s footsteps! There is always Florida awaiting you, dad and mom. Personally, I would like to see NO PFD and rescind the geezer lax-tax on land just so’s your ilk will leave…

  • A borough easement vacation means nothing. In a 7-year battle with DNR, that we lost, we learned that the Mat-Su borough vacated an easement leading to our homestead in the 1980’s. The vacation was requested by State DOT/DNR. For 40 years we received various documents from State agencies stating we had no easements on our homestead. In 2012, DNR organized a group of dog mushers in the Knik area to start claiming two historic trails existed across our homestead. Alaska laws favor trespassers. Our “no trespassing” signs on the property since the 1960’s were found by the court to show hostility to the public. Since 1982, the 160 acre property has been bordered on three sides by public dirt roads. DNR wanted access on the 4th side and through the middle? The property is located 2.5 miles from the nearest paved road, Point MacKenzie. Contemporary trail evidence was used by the court because historic maps and documents were not helpful for the court. We estimate DNR spent over 3 million dollars against us in order to set precedence against future private property easement disputes, very similar to this situation.

    • Donna,
      Thanks for sharing your story.
      Sorry you had to go through with this.
      I am specifically interested in how the court found no trespassing signs “offensive”.
      This seems to violate our Constitution.
      I wonder if a federal court would see it differently?

      • Steve,
        Since the 1960’s, the property was posted with no trespassing signs in the same way you would see properties posted along roads today. Between 2008-2012 we were advised to block one of the “trails” to break the public access. We piled brush in the “trail” once a year during each of those years. In Judge Easter’s Findings of Fact and Conclusions of Law, she said “Plaintiffs and their parents have exhibited a long-standing hostility to any and all trespassers across their property.”

  • I am not surprised by the KPB planning commission. They have a history of not supporting private property rights. Our Home Owners Association is in a legal battle with the KPB planning commssion, who is siding with a developer that is trying to change our R-1 Local Option Zoning.

  • Hey Zac, I’m an owner of view property off West Skyline in Homer. I, like you, want/need privacy. One thing you should consider is planting some trees along that easement/trail. Alaska Hardy has some, but you can ask them to order you some 8′ trees to be planted next Spring. It takes a couple of years for the roots to get established, but then they grow about a foot every year. I have found that the Black Hills Spruce trees grow the fastest here by far. They cost about $500.00 each and it’s a heck of a lot cheaper than buying the lot next door. I’ll send you some photos of my trees, taken the day I planted them and today. Text me at 907-341-9384 or email at wjd20092001@gmail.com. I’d leave the hotos for yu here, but I don’t think she’ll allow it.

    • STOP SCAMMING !!!!!!

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