Sky-high plans made in Centennial’s early days are vexing some of the hamlet’s residents looking to secure the use of their property.
Throughout the town, structures were built outside parcels of land set aside for buildings and encroached on Albany County-owned land, originally slated for streets.
Mountain View Hotel owner Mike McShane’s property dispute started about 100 years ago when an ice shed was placed on Maple Avenue, shutting down the road. It has been used as a parking area for the Mountain View Hotel since then.
McShane said he and other Centennial residents have used county-owned land for years and want to make sure they can continue to do so. He recently petitioned the Albany County Commission to decide how to resolve the uncertainty surrounding county land used by himself and others.
“We are only the petitioners and we petitioned the county commissioners to look at a possible issue that could have happened in the future,” he said. “They made their decision (on how to resolve the issue) in the best interests of the whole community.”
The commission decided to award the whole section of the street, up to the old ice shed, to McShane, Albany County Geological Information Systems Director Alan Frank said. The County Commission could have divided the street between McShane and other land owners but chose not to because of the effort McShane put into the petition, he said.
“(The County Commission) gave the historically-used parking area — in front of the historic Mountain View Hotel — to keep … as part of the hotel’s parking area,” Frank said. “Even when the railroad was going through that, was used as a parking area for the hotel, so this reflects the historical use.”
McShane said the issues stem from the town’s early days when the entire town was owned by one person, who created a plan for Centennial and transferred ownership of the streets to Albany County. When people came into the town, the original land owner’s plan wasn’t enforced, resulting in buildings in the middle of streets, McShane said.
“The hotel owner platted the town of Centennial — he owned all the land and therefore platted all the streets,” he said. “Within one year of building the hotel and platting the streets, they built an ice shed in the middle of Maple (Avenue), which made it unusable forever.”
Albany County Commissioner Heber Richardson said McShane’s petition is a good example for Centennial residents in how to legally resolve property disputes.
“This (petition to vacate a street) could be an example for future petitioners because this stuff happens all over Centennial,” Richardson said. “Centennial is a big mess. People have porches and fences in the roads like Maple (Avenue) — between First and Second streets — which was never really a street.”
Besides better representing how the town is used, filing petitions could help residents avoid disputes with their neighbors about who owns land, while making it easier to sell their property, he said.
“If we didn’t do this, there could be disputes over who gets to use what land because who owns what land is not clearly defined,” Richardson said. “When somebody wants to sell the property, they could have trouble getting title insurance if some portion or their building, garage or house is not in their property.”