County property dispute nears end

NEW CUMBERLAND – A property dispute between Hancock County commissioners and attorney Lawrence Manypenny may be nearing a resolution.

Visiting Judge David W. Hummel Jr., of the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court, scheduled a settlement conference for the two parties at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Hancock County Courthouse.

The dispute, ongoing for years, came to a head last year when Manypenny asked the commissioners to compensate him for the county’s use of land he claims to own. Manypenny’s law office is adjacent to the Hancock County Magistrate Court, and Manypenny claims ownership of the land up to and including the Magistrate Court sidewalk and enclosed staircase.

In February, Manypenny’s office erected caution tape, orange pylons and “no trespassing” signs on the land between the two buildings.

The action prompted commissioners to ask a judge for an injunction ordering Manypenny to remove the barriers.

At the heart of the dispute is whether the county, through longtime use of the land, can claim ownership through adverse possession. Manypenny says he has two land surveys on his side.

In a hearing in February, Hummel ordered that public access to Magistrate Court not be hindered until the case is resolved.

Hancock County Commissioner Jeff Davis said assistant prosecutor William Fahey will represent the commissioners at Tuesday’s conference. Any settlement offer will have to be approved by commissioners, Davis said.