Subdivision streets issue vexes county commission
By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 12, 2013 1:46 PM
Wayne County commissioners last week questioned what can be done to ensure that subdivision streets built to state standards are taken over by the state for maintenance in a timely manner so that residents don't end up with a hefty paving bill.
Commissioners raised those concerns following a presentation by Chris Pendergraph, Department of Transportation district engineer, on the state's requirements for adding subdivision roads to the highway system.
It is not a new issue, board members said, and the county has a number of subdivisions where the roads were built to DOT standards, but that were never accepted into the system.
According to information provided to the board, the developer or property owner must dedicate right of way that must be free of charge. It also must be clear of all encumbrances including stormwater control devices.
At least 20 percent of the lots bordering the road must be individually owned, and there must be at least two occupied residences for every tenth of a mile.
Commissioner Ray Mayo said it can be difficult for residents to have an older street brought up to code so that the state will take it over.
"In some cases it costs almost a much to get it back to your standards for you to take it over as it would to assess themselves to repave or whatever," he said. "There are a lot of subdivisions that the residents just cannot afford the amount of money that is involved. They cannot afford to be assessed $5,000 or $10,000, whatever.
"We need to address that and we need to address it fast. We also need to have some rules and statutes in place for the future so that we can eliminate this 20 years from now, even subdivisions being built today, from falling into this same thing."
There is a need to do a study with contractors and developers to come up with a recommendation that will eliminate the possibility of residents "being stuck" with the maintenance of the streets, he said.
Mayo said he has started the process of trying to get people together to try to come up with a process for an ordinance to help the situation.
He said that there are many subdivisions in his district where residents were not told, and perhaps legally didn't have to be told, that when they bought their home they would be responsible for the streets in the subdivision.
"In my opinion there lies the flaw," said Commissioner Joe Daughtery. "You develop a subdivision and you put in community water. All of that is done to a standard of the sanitary district. But the moment that is accepted, the moment water flows through that line, it is immediately turned over to the sanitary district.
"It is not put there arbitrarily for the resident to maintain that water line until some point in the future. It's immediate. The problem here is people are buying lots in subdivisions, and have for years, assuming it was state maintained, was built to state standards because no one took the step petitioning to have it taken over (by the state). Then some 30 years down the road you know, and I know, that asphalt is going to deteriorate in 30 years."
The state then comes along 30 years later, inspects the street and says it doesn't meet state guidelines, Daughtery said. As such, that means residents will be told they will have to hire a contractor to bring it up to DOT standards, Daughtery said.
"The estimates are gotten and all of a sudden it is $200,000," he said. "Then those 20 residents turn around, look at one another and say 'I had no idea. I can't come up with $10,000.' It is a real problem."
Daughtery said he does not think it will be solved until the formula is changed at the point when the DOT accepts the street. It has to be accepted on the front end instead of some arbitrary date down the road, he said.
It is a problem in the county and across the state, he said.
Daughtery said commissioners should meet with legislators to resolve the issue.
"I don't think it is going to be resolved any other way," he said. "So I would encourage this board to reach out to our legislators."
In response to questioning by Commissioner Bill Pate, Pendergraph said that the petition to add the road to the state system can be made by the developer or a resident.
When the petition originates with a resident, the state asks that a majority, 75 to 80 percent, of the residents sign the petition, Pendergraph said.
"A petition is not obligatory in any way." he said. "A petition does not obligate the signers in any way to any monetary expenditure or anything. It is just petitioning the state to investigate to try to see if the road can be added to the state system.
"Once we get that petition we just issue a letter back and say 'This, this and this need to be addressed,' and we can continue to the process. It is then the person of contact on the petition to decide it is going to cost too much and stop the process or proceed with the project."