CINDY A. SHARPE; GEORGE A. LOGAN; and SYBILLE RANCH, LLC, Appellants (Defendants),
JUDITH TIMCHULA, Trustee of the Judith Timchula Living Trust dated October 19, 2000, Appellee (Plaintiff), and JACK GARSON; ALETHA GARSON; JIMMY RAY GARSON; MOLLY JANE GARSON; SHAN BRIAN GARSON; and STRONG CREEK RANCH, INC., Appellees (Defendants).
from the District Court of Albany County The Honorable Tori
R.A. Kricken, Judge.
Representing Cindy A. Sharpe, George A. Logan, and Sybille
Ranch, LLC: Mitchell H. Edwards of Nicholas & Tangeman,
LLC, Laramie, Wyoming.
Representing Judith Timchula, Trustee of the Judith Timchula
Living Trust: M. Gregory Weisz of Pence and MacMillan, LLC,
Representing Strong Creek Ranch, Inc, Jack Garson, Aletha
Garson, Jimmy Ray Garson, Molly Garson, and Shan Brian
Garson: Donald P. Prehoda, Jr. and Aaron L. Tomisich of
Prehoda, Edwards & Rampulla, LLC, Laramie, Wyoming.
Argument by Mr. Prehoda.
DAVIS, C.J., and FOX, KAUTZ, BOOMGAARDEN, and GRAY, JJ.
Appellee, Judith Timchula, filed a complaint for
establishment of a private road pursuant to Wyoming Statutes
§§ 24-9-101 to -105. With limited modification, the
district court adopted the viewers and
appraisers' recommendations regarding the route,
conditions and use restrictions, and damages. Appellants
Cindy A. Sharpe, George A. Logan, and Sybille Ranch, LLC,
appeal each ruling. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and
remand for further proceedings on damages.
Appellants raise three issues, which we rephrase as:
I. Did the court err in selecting "the most reasonable
and convenient route" for the private road?
II. Did the court err when it did not impose use restrictions
on the private road?
III. Did the court err in its award of damages?
Garsons focus on the route location and take no position on
the remaining issues. Ms. Timchula focuses on use
restrictions. She is willing to accept alternative routes and
pay the damages ordered.
Ms. Timchula owns all of Section 21, Township 19 North, Range
72 West, 6th P.M., Albany County. In May 2017, she filed a
complaint in the district court pursuant to Wyoming Statutes
§§ 24-9-101 to -105 claiming that her property is
without legally enforceable access. She proposed the court
designate a route along an existing, unnamed, two-track road
that is already subject to easements. That route would have
crossed Sections 15 and 16. Ms. Sharpe and Mr. Logan own the
southern portion, and Sybille Ranch, Inc. owns the northern
portion of Section 15. The State of Wyoming owns Section 16.
Ms. Sharpe and Mr. Logan answered the complaint and proposed
an alternate route across "Gates Creek Ranch Road,"
a two-track road crossing Section 22. Jimmy Ray, Molly Jane,
and Shan Brian Garson own the northern half of Section 22,
while Jack and Aletha Garson own the southern half. Various
parties have easements across Gates Creek Ranch Road.
In January 2018, the court held a "necessity"
hearing and determined that Ms. Timchula satisfied the
statutory requirements for establishment of a private road
and that access to her property was necessary. That
determination is not at issue. After the hearing, Ms.
Timchula amended her complaint to propose a modified route
located exclusively on Section 15 to avoid crossing the
State's land on Section 16.
With input from the parties, the court appointed three
viewers-Jim Hastings, Shane Cross, and Don Willis-to assess
the proposed routes and submit recommendations to the court
regarding the most "reasonable and convenient"
route for the private road, any conditions and restrictions
that should be placed on the private road, and damages. After
receiving instructions from the court, including an
instruction that the viewers were not legally permitted to
propose a route that connected to or traversed State land,
the viewers met on the lands in question in August 2018, to
view Ms. Timchula's property and the proposed access
routes. All persons interested in the case were invited to
attend the site visit.
The court provided the viewers the following map of the
proposed routes with their instructions:
In their report, the viewers unanimously recommended the
court designate a modified route-wherein the road would enter
Ms. Sharpe and Mr. Logan's property at the same point
proposed by Ms. Timchula. Then the route would course
southwest on an existing road to the boundary line between
Sections 15 and 16, as Ms. Timchula proposed. At that point,
the route would turn south and course through Section 15, but
would stop at the corner of Sections 15, 16, 21, and 22,
unlike the route Ms. Timchula proposed. The route would then
enter the extreme northwest portion of the Garson property on
Section 22 and turn immediately west into Ms. Timchula's
property. The viewers recommended this route because it
provided the most convenient access to a public road and
would require the least new construction and maintenance.
After a bench trial, the court determined that the
Viewers' Route represented the "most reasonable and
convenient" route for the private road. The court
explained that it evaluated the testimony of the viewers and
the parties, some of which conflicted. It found the viewers
credible and more reliable than the interested landowners. In
the court's assessment, all of the routes could require
construction and repair work or pose a risk of difficult
travel at times due to weather and moisture conditions. It
found no evidence to warrant it rejecting or modifying the
Viewers' Route. It also found that route to be the most
consistent with the private road statutes, which state that
access "shall be along section and boundary lines
and use restrictions
In the district court proceedings, Appellants argued that Ms.
Timchula should be restricted from using the private road for
subdivision of her property and she should be required to use
the road for agricultural and residential purposes only. The
viewers did not recommend these restrictions. At trial, they
explained why. Mr. Hastings noted "that none of the
other users of that right-of-way ha[d] the same type of
restrictions." He and the other viewers felt such
restrictions might diminish Ms. Timchula's property value
without due process. Mr. Cross noted that Ms. Timchula
requested "use of her property not be restricted to
simply agriculture or residential" purposes. He
expressed concern that the restrictions would limit Ms.
Timchula's ability to use some of her land. Mr. Willis
testified that he felt it was not up to them as viewers, or
him as a lay person without any legal training, to take away
Ms. Timchula's property rights.
The court declined to impose the requested restrictions for
multiple reasons. First, the defendants did not offer
"sufficient evidence as to why such conditions should be
imposed" or which "cause[d] the Court to deem"
it appropriate to impose such conditions and restrictions.
Second, the defendants' property was not subject to such
conditions and restrictions. Third, Ms. Sharpe and Mr.
Logan's property and the Garson's property were
"already subject to unconditional ingress/egress
easements for the benefit of Antelope [Springs Land and
Cattle Company], Rollston M. Frangopoulus, Trustee of the
Gates Creek Trust, the John Roger Dodds Trust, and the Carol
A. McKee Living Trust." Those easements did not contain
the restrictions the defendants sought to impose on Ms.
Timchula. Finally, "one or more" viewers testified
that they considered the defendants' requests and found
The district court instructed the viewers on how to assess
damages. The instruction quoted the damages provision from
the private road statutes and addressed how to assess the
fair market value of property. The viewers recommended that
Ms. Timchula pay $25 per rod to Sybille Ranch, LLC, $25 per
rod to Ms. Sharpe and Mr. Logan, and $500 total to Jimmy Ray,
Molly Jane, and Shan Brian Garson. In their report, the
viewers explained that to assess damages, they
"evaluated 25 sales in Albany County and neighboring
counties" and determined that the fair market value of
the property over which the private road would cross was $1,
000 per acre. They reviewed two easements which sold for
$4.50and $110 per rod and "found six
easements for non-exclusive 30-foot private roads that sold
for $25 per rod." "D[ue] to the wide range of
values in nearby properties" and easements, they decided
to rely on "arms['] length neg[otiations] by parties
negotiating similar easements in [Albany] County" to
At trial, Ms. Timchula's counsel expressed concern that
the viewers may not have properly assessed damages and asked
each viewer to explain how they had arrived at the
recommended damages. Their testimony generally established
that the baseline amount that the State charges for an
easement over its land is $25 per rod.
Mr. Hastings explained that the damages recommendation was
"a complex decision." They viewed many property
sales. "[I]t seemed reasonable to actually look at what
had been paid for similar types of easements and it was
easiest from that standpoint to draw from the
information" the State supplied to them. They considered
the "before and after" test to establish damages
but did not report such values. They could not agree on those
values and ultimately felt that it was more appropriate to
use the $25 per rod figure.
Mr. Cross initially testified that the viewers used the
"before and after" analysis, noting that the
court's instructions identified the "before and
after" analysis, as well as an arm's length
negotiation instruction. When the viewers talked with the
parties' counsel, one side told them they should use the
"before and after" approach while the other said
they should use both. Mr. Cross thought the "before and
after" analysis was a component of the $25 per rod
Mr. Willis testified that they reached the $25 per rod amount
a couple of ways. When asked whether they utilized a
"before and after" analysis, he responded that he
"didn't know where you would come up with a figure
for before and after on the pieces of the properties that
were already -- had easements and traffic on them." He
thought that damages could have been a little higher for the
new road that they proposed along the west side of Section
16, but they could not find anything to justify a higher
amount. The State easements in Albany County within the last
15 to 20 years ...