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Dispute Divided Candidate, Neighbors

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ity Council candidate Mark Pounders filed a lawsuit last year with Richmond Circuit Court that divided neighbors over a forgotten alleyway that cuts through back yards on Maple Avenue in Westview.

The dispute so rankled one neighbor that he says he threatened to sue Pounders when he didn't return a stray football that landed on Pounders' side of the fence.

Pounders' fight with a local vegetable vendor has become infamous for its intensity — police reports were filed in 2002 when the vendor, Curtis Shepperson, resisted moving his stand on Patterson Avenue.

But another distraction in Pounders' campaign for the 1st-District seat involves a lawsuit he filed in September of 2004 over an alley cutting through the back yards of several neighbors.

Pounders says the dispute started when a neighbor called city officials to complain that Pounders' shed was encroaching on the neighbor's property. A city official then informed Pounders that a deed dating from 1922 established the alley as a public thoroughfare.

A lawyer for Pounders sent the five neighbors a letter in June 2004, stating that "Mark would like the opportunity to revitalize and maintain the alley for the benefit of all property owners. Mark believes it will add significant value and enjoyment to the respective properties."

Then Pounders filed a lawsuit that, in essence, would quiet the original deed establishing the alley. He says he only wanted to protect the alley from "adverse possession" and had no intention of re-establishing the alley as a public thoroughfare.

But five of the seven neighbors affected by the alley resisted Pounders' lawsuit and objected with motions of their own. Two of the neighbors contacted by Style declined to comment.

Another neighbor, attorney Hugh P. Fisher III, says the neighbors didn't really know what Pounders wanted to do with the property. Fisher argued in court that the deed Pounders references didn't establish the alleyway anyhow.

Pounders withdrew the lawsuit last year.

What bothers Fisher, though, is Pounders' explanation of the outcome on his campaign Web site. On it, Pounders writes, "according to the court, the clock on adverse possession was reset when the action was filed and one of the city's few remaining private alleys was protected for another 15 years."

Pounders stands by the statement, saying the judge informed him that the property was protected in court. Fisher says that isn't so.

"It especially concerns me that a City Council candidate would attribute to a circuit court judge a ruling that the court never made," Fisher says. "The court never addressed adverse protection."

Afterward, tensions escalated between the Fishers and Pounders, neighbors say. Fisher threatened to sue Pounders if he didn't return the blue football one of Fisher's teenage boys accidentally tossed over Pounders' white fence sometime this summer, a neighbor says.

Fisher declined to confirm or deny that he threatened legal action if the ball wasn't returned. "I notified him sternly requesting the football," Fisher says. "And he still has not returned it."

Pounders says he isn't aware of the football incident. "They accuse me of a lot of things. It's a constant surprise," he says of some neighbors. "It's an unfortunate situation that we have neighbors who want to be unneighborly." S



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