The plaintiffs called witnesses to court Wednesday and are expected to do so again Thursday as the Jackson Browne property dispute proceeds in a Santa Cruz courtroom. The matter centered around the Aptos property is expected to be wrapped up by Wednesday or Thursday of next week.
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Singer-songwriter Jackson Browne’s property dispute continues to move forward in Santa Cruz County Superior Court.
The case, stemming from an ongoing disagreement from 2019, revolves around whether plaintiffs Christopher Wheeler and Sarah Claus can use Browne’s driveway for construction vehicles in order to build their home. The driveway is the pair’s only point of entry to their property, which lies adjacent to Browne’s in Aptos.
Browne’s argument is that the driveway does not fall within the boundaries of one of the property’s easements, or the right of accommodation to another’s property. Rather, his lawyers argue that the easement in question actually includes a logging trail and not the paved driveway Wheeler and Claus have used to access their property and intend to use for construction of their home.
Should Browne win the case, Wheeler and Claus would be required to use the logging trail, not the driveway, to access their property to build their home. Their attorney, Ken Gorman, argues that it would cost the pair more than $800,000 to make the logging trail compliant with county regulations; that, Gorman said, would effectively prevent construction as a “practical economic matter.”
On Wednesday, the court began hearing from witnesses for Wheeler and Claus, said Gorman. The first witness, title search expert Kim Spencer, testified that there was no question that the easement described in the property deed is, in fact, the paved driveway on the Browne property and not the logging trail.
Dennis Webb, head forester for Big Creek Lumber, also testified for the plaintiffs regarding the logging trail. Based on Big Creek Lumber records, he said the logging trail was not built until 1980 — after the deed was written in 1975.
Local surveyor Mike Bridgette — who has previously worked for Browne through Browne’s property managers — said that as soon as he saw the easement, he recognized the paved driveway and confirmed that it matched the parameters described in the easement.
The plaintiffs are expected to call more witnesses Thursday; the defense will present its case once the plaintiffs have finished presenting theirs. The matter is expected to conclude by Wednesday or Thursday of next week.