Hillsborough farmer wins court battle after neighbor blocked access to cows

WIMAUMA, Fla. (WFLA) — An unusual property dispute over a “right of way” easement in southern Hillsborough County has ended in success for two property owners.

A neighbor blocked an easement, cutting off their access to their properties. That meant a farmer couldn’t get hay to his cows and a homeowner couldn’t drive to their property.

Better Call Behnken first reported on the dispute nearly a year ago and helped get the easement unblocked, but the case continued to be fought in court. Now, a judge has ruled that the easement, as included in farmer Scott Nessmith’s 2017 deed, is legal and cannot be blocked.

“The cows were starving last year, as you know,” Nessmith said. “And they were pregnant. Now, they’re having babies and happy. Thanks to you.”

After the unusual property dispute was uncovered by Better Call Behnken, Hillsborough County Code Enforcement cited Ricky Goodson of Goodson Farms for blocking the easement and instructed him to move the barricade. Goodson then moved the equipment that kept his neighbors from their land, but code enforcement documents show Goodson insisted he is right and that this land is private and that he plans to fence it off.

When the blocked-off property owners first called Hillsborough County government and the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, they say they were told it was a civil matter. So they turned to Better Call Behnken. Investigator Shannon Behnken obtained copies of deeds that show the legal easement that was first established in the 1960s, and was included in all three property owners’ 2017 deeds.

Behnken sent the deeds to county officials and, 48 hours later, code officials cited the owners of Goodson Farms—Ricky Goodson and his brother Michael Goodson—for obstructing the right-of-way easement.

The violation instructed: “Remove the barrier consisting of tractor parts/obstructions from the easement which is preventing vehicle or pedestrian traffic. This section prohibits land locking the listed parcel/address/folio in this description.”

Doug Barnes, who couldn’t drive to his home when access was blocked, says Goodson dropped his court case against him after the judge’s decision in Nessmith’s case.