04/14/10 — Planning Board discusses subdivision roads

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Planning Board discusses subdivision roads

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 14, 2010 1:46 PM

Deteriorating subdivision streets have been attracting the attention of Wayne County Commissioners in recent months, raising questions as to why the streets aren't being properly maintained.

It also has raised questions of protecting of homeowners and placing additional financial burdens and requirements on developers which in turn could lead to higher home costs.

Tuesday night, the county Planning Board set in motion a committee to address those concerns. Members also agreed to tackle the issue of off-site drainage systems.

The county's subdivision ordinance requires streets with four or more lots to be built to N.C. Department of Transportation standards. However, it does not require a street to be accepted by DOT for maintenance.

County Planner Connie Price was out of town and did not attend the meeting.

"The developer will often maintain the street until the lots are sold," Price said in a memo to the board. "Then the motivation to maintain the street is gone. Also the opportunity for the county to require the developer to maintain the street vanishes."

The problem arises when the developer fails to follow through with applying to the state to take over maintenance of the roads. When that happens, the street begins to deteriorate before being accepted by the DOT, he said.

In his memo, Price recommended two possible ways to require the developer to have the streets accepted by the state:

* Once a subdivision has a minimum of four occupied homes and an average of two occupied homes per tenth of a mile, no additional development permits will be released for lots on that street until the developer or related agent petitions the N.C. Department of Transportation for maintenance and acceptance of the subject street into the state-maintained road network.

* Once the requirement of paragraph one are met, additional development permits will be released until 75 percent of the development permits for lots along the subject road have been released. Once this threshold has been met, no additional development permits will be released for lots on that street until the N.C. Department of Transportation district engineer has accepted the subject road into the state-maintained road network.

The board took no action on those recommendations, but did approve a committee to study the issue.

"There needs to be some procedure or some method of protecting the buyer when they move in and spend all of their fortune or their whole estate on that fine home then all of a sudden they have three-foot wide, foot-deep potholes that wipe out their (vehicle's) front end every time they try to go to town," said board member David Quick said.

Planning Board member Mike Aycock agreed.

"Something needs to be done to protect the homeowners" he said.

That goes for the off-site septic tanks, too, he said.

"People who have never developed property don't know about these kinds of problems," said former board member Wayne Aycock. "That is the only reason I know because I have (developed property)."

Wayne Aycock said he knows of one subdivision that has only one way in and out, and where at least some, if not all of the roads have been taken over by the state, and there are still street issues.

He said he has had the DOT out to his development on four different occasions and each time state workers have given him a punch list of things that need to be done. And each trip costs him a $1,000 or more, he said. He said he DOT employees have been very professional and nice to work with.

"They can always find reasons to turn them down," said board member Chris Cox.

"These (Price's recommendations) sound awfully reasonable to me," Quick said. "I see no downside, no negative to them. I can certainly appreciate what he is talking about some of the older developments that we have and the road conditions."

I don't know what the answer is," Wayne Aycock said. "The state of North Carolina is broke. It can't afford what they have. The state of North Carolina does not want any more streets."

County Attorney Borden Parker suggested that the board turn the street issue over to a committee and seek the DOT's involvement.

Cox made motion to that effect, seconded by Quick and it was unanimously approved.

As for the off-site septic tank rules, Parker suggested that any rules be made part of the county subdivision ordinance instead of Health Department rules. Such a move would make it more convenient for people who would only have to go to one place for approval instead of several, he said.

Planning Board members agreed.

Septic tanks are required by Environmental Health for all structures that have inside water, but lack access to a sewer system. Most of the time the septic tanks are located near the structures. However, there are occasions when that is not possible because of soil types, water table, lot size or nearby wells.

In those cases, the system must be placed elsewhere.

The county lacks any rules regulating ownership, location or maintenance of off-site drainage fields.

In a memo to the Planning Board, Price recommended that commissioners and Health Board adopt rules to control ownership, location or maintenance of off-site drainage fields.

He also recommended a committee comprised of Planning Board and Health Board members and county planning staff. The committee would be charged with drafting a proposal that could be adopted by county commissioners and Board of Health.