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City of Banning sued over road dispute

March 2, 2011 12:00:00 AM PST
An Indian reservation guard shack has led to a lawsuit. A Banning landowner wants to develop his 41 acres on Fields Road near the 10 Freeway with houses and duplexes. But he says a guard shack for the Morongo Indian Reservation is a big barrier to his plans. He's now suing the city of Banning.

The property that Lloyd Fields wants to develop has been in his family for more than 50 years. The only public road in was named after his father.

But because the parcel of land is surrounded by the Morongo Indian Reservation, the only way to get to the property is to first pass through a tribal guard shack.

Fields says the tribe has no right to operate these barricades because, he says, it's a public street.

"The tribe stole a public road from Banning, they blockaded that public road," said Fields.

On Fields Road, everything to the east of the centerline is Morongo Indian Reservation; everything to the west of the centerline is the city of Banning.

Fields is claiming that if you go by that line of thinking, the guard shack is on public property, and he says the tribe had no authority to put it there.

"It is in the Banning general plan, it is a Banning public road," said Fields.

The tribe didn't comment on that, but did tell Eyewitness News: "Mr. Fields continues to be provided access through our reservation. All he has to do is provide identification as all visitors are required to do," wrote spokesman Michael Fisher.

"I'm Lloyd Fields, I own property on this street, I want to visit my property," said Fields as he was stopped at the guard shack.

Fields was first questioned by tribal security, then a Riverside County sheriff's deputy.

It's unclear how an Eyewitness News camera in the car may have affected things, but 18 minutes later, the car was allowed to pass through.

Fields says the tribe does allow him onto his property, but that's not the point. He claims they don't have the right to block the road in the first place.

And he says the tribe has refused to take the guard shack down.

"They say that they don't have to, that they have their immunities and that this is a battle between the city and me," said Fields.

"The city cannot determine the location of the Morongo tribe's guard shack without a certified survey. Other than that, the city cannot comment on pending litigation," Banning City Manager Andrew Takata told Eyewitness News.

So the matter is headed to court.