City Attorney David Partsch told city commissioners Sept. 3 that they have authority to lease road right-of-way to private companies, but not to Graham Salvage which has been operating beneath the 11th Street viaduct.
When the J. Sterling Morton Beltway was complete, the state handed over the road right-of-way for highways 2 and 75, now Fourth Corso and 11th Street.
Partsch said the city accepted the responsibility to maintain the roadway, to keep the right-of-way free from advertisement and to keep it free from obnoxious or unsightly activities. He said scrap metal business is specifically prohibited.
Gary Graham, who moved beneath the viaduct after the city raised zoning issues regarding his original location south of the Burlington Northern Depot area in 2009, had asked the city to use the right-of-way for the sorting and transportation of materials.
The right-of-way ends about 20 feet from the main entrance to a quonset type building that Graham purchased for the business.
Graham cleared the ground between the railroad tracks and South Table Creek, but has had consistent legal dealings with the city. The city discovered the land was still zoned residential, which Graham had to correct.
He was then ordered to erect a fence around his property, but the city would not issue a fence permit until the land was surveyed. The city also said the fence could not be built in the creek's flood plain.
Although the Graham's deed for the property said it included all vacated road right-of-way, the city discovered that the right-of-way that connects the property to the roadway near the former Morton House Kitchens Building had not been vacated.
Mayor Jack Hobbie demanded that Graham remove all equipment and material.
Attorney Richard Hoch said Graham never had a lot of resources, but has used what he did have to try and establish the scrap metal business.
He said Graham would like to stay in business.
Finance Commissioner Mark Mercer suggested that he and Public Works Commissioner Jim Stark meet with County Commissioner Rick Freshman to see if Graham can be established at an alternate location.
Stark said Graham provides a needed service in this area. He said it is especially helpful that Graham is willing to pick up appliances for elderly residents.
Paul Stevenson of Nebraska City said special care should be taken to ensure that Graham maintains fair business practices.