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A deed can be ambiguous, even when its words are clear


“When you come to a fork in the road, take it,” said Yogi Berra, supposedly.

Judge Perigo did something similar in a boundary dispute case,  McLallen v. Tillman, arising on the Elk River in McDonald County, which occupies the southwest corner of Missouri. Like all streams in the Ozarks, the Elk River meanders through its floodplain, splitting and recombining, with seasonal floods shifting the arrangement of channels.

Several deeds said that the boundary of the property was a part of a quarter-section “lying North and West of Elk River.” The trial judge, taking the whole fork,  said that these deeds were not ambiguous, sustaining a motion for summary judgment.

The McLallens weren’t happy, because they thought that the eight acres lying between the north and south fork of the Elk River was theirs. Their neighbors claimed the same land. The McLallens appealed, claiming that the deed may be clear enough on its face, but that this language ignored the reality about the Elk River.

At that point, the Elk River splits into two channels, one carrying more water than the other. In 1984, at the time of one conveyance, the southern channel carried the most water. Sometime in the 1990s, the northern channel began to carry the most water. It’s safe to guess that one of the channels may even go dry during droughts.

The Missouri Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgment, sending the case back for a trial. The basis of the reversal is that the appeals court thought McLallen’s deed, while plain on its face, had a latent ambiguity, one that could be discerned from facts outside the words of the deed. The trial court should have heard evidence about which fork of the Elk River constituted its northern boundary, to determine which of two plausible interpretations of the deed would prevail.

 

 

Invest now in vacation property!


In preparing for a short talk about how to convey various kinds of vacation real estate, I arrived at the unbrilliant conclusion that people make decisions to buy vacation real estate (RV lots, lake houses, timeshares) based on what they think they want at the time of purchase, with some attention, but not enough attention, to the future. A short version of my presentation is posted here.

Many decisions to purchase vacation property are made when buyers are in a state of vacation bliss, a kind of wistfulness, that makes them less critical than when they’re on their home turf. They hope the vacation property will be a place of togetherness for family and close friends, where memories are created. Perhaps it will become a retirement home, where the grandchildren will want to visit. The sales techniques for vacation property are addressed squarely at those sentiments.

Many of those good things do happen. But vacation properties have the same drawback as all real estate investments: real estate is immobile. If you must to sell it quickly, the price must be low. You probably can’t sell it yourself, because you’re not there.

Ownership of most objects becomes undesirable. Our family situations change. Rising fortunes suggest that we should upgrade. Declining fortunes require that we sell. Seclusion that initially provided peace now brings feelings of loneliness. Or seclusion is ruined by the tasteless vacation home just built next door. The only time available to be at the vacation property is consumed with mowing and repairs.

Now is a great time to buy, because many owners need to sell. Get some advice about your purchase from people who aren’t going to make a commission if the sale goes through, whom you can confide in about your needs.

The advisors you need when considering purchasing vacation property should be able to advise you on such topics as:

  • the history of the project (subdivision, resort, condominium), including the reputation of its developer
  • subdivision restrictions and plats
  • maintenance fees
  • responsibility for road maintenance
  • recreational amenities
  • water and sewer systems
  • lake or river access
  • police and fire protection
  • homeowner association status and activities
  • distance to medical facilities
  • resale opportunities
  • nearby employment opportunities

The information that you need probably isn’t available from just one person. Take your time in making a decision. Don’t sign anything while you’re in the wistful state.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Partial giraffes sighted in the Ozarks


Giraffe houses are a distinctive feature of Ozarks architecture. Builders used flat stones set on edge for siding. With the mortar painted or stained a uniform and contrasting color to the stone, the effect is something like the pattern on a giraffe. As you can see from the Rock House in Reeds Spring, which is Jeanette and Bruce’s home and performing arts center, the resemblance is striking:

Partial giraffe houses are much less common. With these houses, the stone slabs only go part way up the sides of the house, as in the example below from Forsyth, Missouri:

The above example is typical. The house is a simple rectangle, with the ridgeline of its roof running longwise, making a single gable at each end. The walls above the stone veneer are stucco. While I don’t remember seeing a house built this way, from seeing demolition, it appears that building paper (thick paper impregnated with asphalt) would have been attached to the exterior stud walls with laths (furring strips). A wire mesh (such as chickenwire) would have been stapled to the laths. The stucco (a mix of cement and sand) would have been troweled on to the wire mesh. The stone slabs would have been laid onto the stucco.

Placing the stone only part way up requires less stone and labor than covering the entire wall surfaces. Generally these are modest houses, and the stone veneer on the lower part of the walls gives protection against moisture where it is needed most.

But sometimes, the partial stone veneer  (with random stones well above the lower portion) is artistic in effect, as seen in this rambling house in my neighborhood in the old part of downtown Branson, Missouri:

The partial stone veneer, integrating the chimney, gives great charm to this Branson cottage:

For more info about the giraffe buildings of the Ozarks, check out these sites:

Kimberling City’s acceptance of sewer system didn’t negate contractor’s warranty


Kimberling City occupies several ridges and valleys where Missouri Highway 13 crosses the heart of Table Rock Lake. You would have a hard time finding a place where the installation of a sewer system was more difficult and expensive per customer, due to the steep and rocky terrain and the necessity of pumping the wastewater collected in each valley over the hills to eventually reach the treatment plant.

Kimberling City grew from almost nothing to a population of nearly 5,000 since the completion of the dam that created Table Rock Lake in 1959. Permanent residents and vacationers are attracted to Read the rest of this entry

Judge corrected for merging both Carroll County judicial districts



Eureka Springs and Berryville, both towns in Carroll County, Arkansas, are just eight miles apart, separated by the valley of the Kings River. The Arkansas legislature in 1883 created a judicial district for the county west of the Kings River and the another judicial district on the east side of the river.

But in 2010, for reasons not explained in the Arkansas Supreme Court’s opinion, Parker v. Crow, Eastern District Judge Gerald Crow ruled that henceforth there would be only one judicial district in Carroll County.

Eureka Springs, west of the Kings River, is a tourist town and art colony, known for its Victorian architecture, with bathhouses, galleries and restaurants in a setting of steep hills and narrow streets, all maintained with strict building controls.
Berryville sits on a stretch of prairie east of the Kings River, surrounding by rolling hills and cattle and poultry farms. A Tysons poultry processing plant and a Walmart Supercenter are among the town’s largest employers.

In 1869, as northern Arkansas began to recover from the ravages of the Civil War, Boone County was created from the eastern portion of Carroll County, with Harrison as the county seat. Carrollton, a settlement 20 miles southeast of Berryville, was no longer at the center of Carroll County, and Berryville’s boosters succeeded in having the county seat established in Berryville in 1875.

In 1883, the Eureka Springs Railway was extended south from Missouri, and Eureka Springs quickly blossomed into a small city of hotels (quaint and magnificent) and bathhouses, fed by the waters of dozens of springs. The same year, the Arkansas General Assembly passed Act 74, creating two judicial districts for Carroll County.

Judge Crow’s bold attempt to merge the two districts probably left the Arkansas Supreme Court dumbfounded, but the opinion restoring the two districts simply cites some basic principles of American government to indicate the degree that Judge Crow’s opinion was off-base.

Judge Crow’s first contention was that the 1883 act of the legislature creating the two districts was unconstitutional because it attempted to create a new county, even though the language of the statute specified that the districts were to keep separate records as though they were in different counties, but that Carroll County should in all other respects “be one entire and undivided county.”

Judge Crow also determined that at 1997 legislative act, among other laws, repealed the 1883 act by implication. The Arkansas Supreme Court recited the rule that repeal by implication “is never allowed except where there is such an invincible repugnancy” that the old and new laws “cannot both stand together.” The 1997 law, and the others, may be messy and partially inconsistent, but they did not specifically repeal the 1883 act.

Almost as an afterthought, the Arkansas Supreme Court examined the Arkansas constitution, noting that the power to establish or dissolve judicial districts was a legislative power, not something that a judge could do.  Quashing Judge Crow’s attempt to merge the two judicial districts, the Supreme Court said that his order “shows a plain, manifest, clear and gross abuse of discretion.”

Check out these new Ozarks news channels


Two journalism professors in Springfield–Andrew Cline of Missouri State and Jonathan Groves of Drury–have guided their students (and others, in Groves’s case) to create online publications presenting local news and views. Both got off the ground and online this month.

Cline’s project is Ozarks News Journal, which describes itself as:

a laboratory for discovering how to make the best use of the World Wide Web and social media for producing journalism. Students in the JRN378 Multimedia Journalism class seek to understand more than just how to make the web and social media tools work for news gathering and publishing. They seek to understand how to use these tools to fulfill  the primary purpose of journalism: To give citizens the information they need to be free and self-governing.

Professor Groves has taken a different tack with SGF News, seeking content from members of the community. Groves hopes that SGF News will serve as a community forum on specific topics (currently 2010 elections), but with explicit guidelines, called Ground Rules:

  • No profanity.
  • Be civil. Don’t resort to personal attacks.
  • Support your arguments. Offer links to supporting material, and support your conclusions with facts.
  • Join the community. As citizens of the Ozarks, join the conversation and offer your thoughts so the best will bubble to the top.

“Years of combined experience” : how does it add up?


My wife and I have been married 36 years. I suppose you could say that we have 72 years of combined experience being married. Does that mean that I should be a marriage consultant?

Judging from the use of “years of combined experience” in advertisements, many people must think that combined experience adds up to expertise, even in the Show-Me State, where people are not sheeple but skeptics. Here are some samples: Read the rest of this entry

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