A used car salesman is arguing that he owns a section of the city’s roads.
Sev’s Pre-Owned Luxury Autos has been parking vehicles on Maxon Road for more than two decades, after the city abandoned the road in the 1980s.
Now the city wants the road back — and the company is suing to keep it.
The company’s attorney is arguing that Sev’s has taken “adverse possession” by using the land for so long without any complaint from the city.
“If you occupy and use a piece of property for 10 years, that property can become yours,” attorney Mark Lebowitz said. “If you occupy and use it openly, act in all respects as if it’s yours, you can claim adverse possession.”
He said Sev’s has plowed, maintained and improved the roadway, a length of pavement about 100 feet long. Sev’s claimed the road from its intersection with Erie Boulevard to the city’s barricades beyond the underpass. The only building in that area is the car dealership.
City officials have rejected the argument, saying that no one is legally allowed to claim adverse possession for municipal property. But Lebowitz said an abandoned road can be claimed.
“You can’t if it was owned for governmental purposes,” he said. “If it was just a piece of woods and you built a house there, you could.” And he thinks the city will be unable to prove that it ever owned the road.
“It appears from the tax maps the property was the railroad’s,” he said.
The city disagrees. It has already erected a large fence that blocks the company’s access to the road. Next, it wants to improve the roadway and make it a viable exit from Peek Street.
Metroplex Development Authority Chairman Ray Gillen says reopening the road is essential to developing the lower Nott Street corridor, particularly the former DSS building on Nott Street and the acres of vacant land behind it on Peek Street.
If Maxon Road were reopened, customers and employees could reach Erie Boulevard quickly from those areas. They would only be allowed to turn right onto the busy street, according to Metroplex plans.
“We want to reopen that underpass. We don’t understand why it was ever closed. Why would you block off access?” Gillen said. “It was probably because the Big N Plaza was this huge, empty plaza with no activity.”
Now that plaza is the Golub headquarters, and the hotel across the street has become a bustling Union College dorm.
Gillen sees the potential for much more — if there is better road access.
“We plan to make improvements,” he said. “We’ll repaint some of the rail overpasses. We want to develop the Peek Street site.”