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Legal Issues

On this page you will find information regarding legal issues that have been addressed at City Council meetings.
These examples may help you to determine the steps
to take regarding your questions and disputes.

Streets and Alleys in Kingwood, WV

The issue of what constitutes a city street or alley has been constantly raised in Kingwood. If a resident looks at the tax maps and plats of the various subdivisions, i.e. Eden addition, Williams addition, Morningside addition, etc., you will find that there are many alleys and streets noted on the plats of the addition which have not been opened for public use.

The City of Kingwood, through review of the law on the issue, has taken the position that unless the City approved the plat of a subdivision at a meeting of the City Council, the fact that a plat of an addition shows alleys and streets does not make those alleys and streets open for public use nor do they belong to the City. In subdivisions that show streets and alleys, there is usually something in the deeds of property located therein that permits the property owners to have the use and enjoyment of the streets and alleys shown on the plat. This is for property owners in that subdivision and not open for public use, regardless if the plat appears to indicate that there is an unopened portion of a public street. If the City of Kingwood had approved the subdivision plat, then the alleys and streets would belong to the City. Kingwood has only approved one subdivision. It did approve a portion of the Holleran addition, thereby the streets shown on the plat approved do belong to the City; however, the plat approved did not include all streets. The City thereafter did have to condemn the lower portion of Seemont Drive in order to pave the streets and make it accessible by the residents as it was not included in the approved plat. 

A street may also be dedicated by a Deed of Dedication to the City. Parkview Drive leading off of Miller Road became a City street through dedication. The City does have an ordinance that requires any streets being dedicated to the City must have a survey thereof establishing boundaries of the street and, in order to dedicate a street, it must first be paved in accordance with the ordinance requirements of the City. 

Any streets and alleys that have been maintained and claimed by the City and to which no individuals have laid claim are City streets to be maintained by the City.  Long and uninterrupted possession of land by the public, with claim of ownership for public use and used by the public, will raise a presumption of a dedication by the property owner of such use. Smith v. Cornelius, 41 W.Va. 59, 23 S.E. 599 (1895). 

It is not only those who buy the land or lots abutting on a street or road laid out on a map or plat that have a right to insist upon the opening of the street or road; but where streets and roads are marked on a plat and lots are bought and sold with reference to that plat or map, all who buy with reference to the general plan disclosed by the plat or map acquire a right in all the public ways designated thereon; however, said streets are not necessarily open to the public. Cook v. Totten, 49 W.Va. 177, 38 S.E. 491 (1901), Griffin v. Richardson, 83 W.Va. 442, 98 S.E. 523 (1919), Bauer Enters, Inc v. City of Elkins, 173 W.Va. 438, 317 S.E. 2d 798 (1984). 

There are many cases that support the position of the City in regard to the issue of city streets. Issues between individuals in regard to alleys or streets which have not become public streets maintained by the City are civil issues and would need to be addressed in Circuit Court, not before City Council. The City does have identified streets that it maintains and these are the only streets owned by Kingwood.