Judge rules in park district's favor in Rosser property dispute

A King County Superior Court judge issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday supporting the Vashon Park District's claim that the Rosser family doesn't own the road that leads to their home, according to David Hackett, a park district commissioner who attended the hearing.

Judge Laura Gene Middaugh ruled that the Rosser family has an easement on the 100-foot road that connects their property to Vashon Highway; but the road itself, the judge said, is owned by the Vashon Island School District.

What's more, the judge said, the Rossers don't own an easement on a small swath of property on the eastern edge of the Vashon Park District's fields project that abuts the Rosser property — again, refuting a claim the Rosser family has made.

Hackett, a lawyer, said the judge's preliminary injunction will be in place until the case goes to trial, which is scheduled for 2013. According to Hackett, the judge issued the ruling in the park district's favor based on documents from 1912 as well as property deeds filed with King County. He expects that the ruling will ultimately lead to a permanent injunction.

"Once a court enters a preliminary injunction against you, that's pretty much it," he said.

The ruling was issued from the bench Tuesday afternoon after an hour-long hearing in a Seattle courtroom. Gay and her mother Margaret Rosser were at the hearing, as well as about a dozen Islanders who were there in support of the longtime Island family. The Rossers were not represented by a lawyer.

Gay Rosser, reached Wednesday afternoon, took issue with the process, contending that the judge didn't have time to look at some of the extensive paperwork she's amassed.

"It was the judge's decision," she said. "I was a bit sorry our time was limited."

She added that she's still awaiting a written version of the preliminary injunction, which is to be drafted by the park district's lawyer. "I don't know what it entails until I get the information in writing," she said.

The Rossers' family home, initially owned by Margaret and her late husband Leon and now owned by Gay, sits on a five-acre parcel on the eastern edge of the park district's sports field project. The park district is leasing the adjacent 10-acre site on Vashon Highway, where the Harbor School is located, from the school district.

A dispute over the ownership of the two parcels on the perimeter of the school district's property began a few years ago, when the park district announced its plans to construct a $1.5 million sports fields complex at the site. The dispute has been acrimonious at times. The park district recently obtained a temporary restraining order against Gay Rosser after park district officials claimed she parked a truck on the road leading to her home, obstructing a heavy-equipment operator from gaining access to the site.

Hackett said he's glad that the park district secured a preliminary injunction but said he's frustrated by the way the dispute has played out.

"I'm frankly disappointed that we had to spend so long and go through so much trouble to get to a point that was certainly obvious to me three or four years ago," he said.

Gay Rosser, for her part, said she believes Hackett and other members of the park district have treated her and her mother unfairly.

"I think it's extremely unfortunate how this was handled," she said.


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