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Thread: Private streets

  1. #1
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    What are the disadvantages to the city in allowing "private streets?"

    Follow-up points:

    Are required minimum widths waived?

    Are city structural requirements waived?

    Are curbs, gutters, and sidewalk requirements waived?

    Are public utility space reservations waived?

    Are setbacks waived?

    Is public ROW to be maintained?

    Are property lines allowed to extend to the center of the street?

    Are gates allowed?

    Are required landscaping easements waived?

    What if the private streets are not properly maintained, and it looks like the city is failing to maintain them?

    Should there be specific maintenance requirements or standards for resurfacing and repairs, etc.?

    Should there be signs that say "Private Street" (which may imply no public traffic is allowed)?

    Is there a maximum length that should be allowed for public service vehicle access? (ambulances, fire trucks, school busses, garbage trucks, etc.)

    Are they recorded or designated as such on the Land Use Plan?

    Are "private street" requirements recorded separately in your ordinances?

    Other concerns?
    Last edited by Gedunker; 27 Jan 2008 at 2:22 PM. Reason: sequential posts

  2. #2
    Cyburbian KSharpe's avatar
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    Disadvantage: You put the responsiblity for street maintenance on a loose group of homeowners that often end up not wanting to pay for it. Then, they petiion the city to take over the responsiblity. But, when the street was first, its often not to a city standard, so its harder for the city to maintain.
    Do you want to pet my monkey?

  3. #3
    Cyburbian jmello's avatar
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    Huge disadvantage:

    When the area eventually urbanizes and you (the city) want to connect existing and new streets (i.e., provide interconnectivity), it is virtually impossible if the existing street is privately-owned. We have a series of locations where two streets are on the same alignment and almost meet, but the HOA has put up a barrier/fence between. We have even run into resistance when suggesting bike-ped connections in lieu of roadway connections.

  4. #4
    Cyburbian Streck's avatar
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    Should the city consider requiring the owners to participate in a special tax assessment district (if private streets are granted) so that the city would have the right to come in and tax just those owners along the private street if they have not properly maintained it?

    Wouldn't this also serve as a discouragement to those contemplating such private streets?

  5. #5
    Super Moderator luckless pedestrian's avatar
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    I hate them for all the reasons listed but we can't deny someone the right to create a private way if they wish - we are not allowed to mandate that it be a public way but I wish I could!

  6. #6
    Cyburbian Tide's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by jmello View post
    Huge disadvantage:

    When the area eventually urbanizes and you (the city) want to connect existing and new streets (i.e., provide interconnectivity), it is virtually impossible if the existing street is privately-owned. We have a series of locations where two streets are on the same alignment and almost meet, but the HOA has put up a barrier/fence between. We have even run into resistance when suggesting bike-ped connections in lieu of roadway connections.
    Thank you for mentioning this JMello. We use private streets very widely here in my county. Most of the time it works best since the typical county section a) requires a 66' right of way, b) requires sidewalk, and c) has a construction standard greater than the typical 10 lot sub needs. I urge smaller developments that are nestled in the forest or on a shotgun piece of property to go private, for our sake and theres. We don't have to maintain it and our roads dept is very against taking new roads on. Also, the setbacks are less since you don't need 66' ROW a 30 or 50 will do.
    @GigCityPlanner

  7. #7
    Cyburbian transguy's avatar
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    The municipality "next door" (along with virtually every municipality around me) allows developments to construct private streets that are not required to be up to City standards. One particular area has had to do major construction projects several times in the past ten years, primarily due to the fact that the standards they use to do the construction are very low. The neighborhood recently began petitioning the City to take on the responsibility of the street maintenance. The City agreed, but required that the streets be up to City standards prior to the transfer of responsibility. The neighborhood was furious and is now in the process of trying to get my municipality to annex their neighborhood; not likely going to happen.

    We also see numerous private streets where connections between neighborhoods were required by the fire department with gates that prohibit movement of traffic between the areas. We strongly discourage the use of private streets, but we cannot prohibit them.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian solarstar's avatar
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    We still have a demand for gated communities, and aren't about to let them gate a public roadway so most new subdivisions are building private roads. We require them to be the same standards as public roads would be on all counts, width, radius, construction material, sidewalks, etc. That has been helpful for those times when developers disappear and we have to take over maintenance, and also for interconnects as mentioned by another poster.

    Setbacks, etc. are just the same as they would be for a public roadway. As for maximum length, I'd let your fire/EMS guys make that call. Here it is 1500' without a turnaround and/or cul-de-sac, and that seems to work well. We have no differences in private street requirements, other than the developer must provide 3-year bonding and we inspect them at that time before finally accepting them for "private perpetual maintenance" with appropriate agreements in place. We've been burned too many times by fleeing developers so are a bit strict on this.

  9. #9
    Cyburbian CDT's avatar
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    The last city I worked allowed private streets anytime the developer asked for it. They had to meet ALL public street design standards. The city used blue street signs instead of green so people (police) could easily determine whether it's private or public.

    My current city will reluctantly allow private streets. When I started they were using a different naming scheme for private streets which I have been fighting since day one. Tell me what citizen knows that court is private and avenue is public? None.

    Pros to private streets: The police don't have to provide public service on them so there's less capital costs.

    Cons to private streets: maintenance responsibilty could crumble if the association dissolves. Police don't provide policing which makes people mad when they get in accidents and it looks JUST like a public street. People don't understand the difference.

    Developers like to use private streets because they can sometimes put the lot line in the middle of the private street easement which means less setbacks and more lot to sell to a buyer.

    We require private streets to be in an outlot, which takes care of the setback issue. I don't really care for private streets because people just don't understand why they don't receive the same public service on infrastructure that is identicle to public streets.

  10. #10
    Cyburbian Richi's avatar
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    Take a look at the street section in Performance Zoning by Lane Kindig.

    I've lived on two different private streets for the last 18 years. The first one in an 18 lot subdivision, started out as dirt. There were five houses on it and no school buses. Florida sand, 50' wide road easement. (One of those "lot lines to middle of r-o-w deals. The HOA maintained it. The developer who also lived there had a tractor and graded it (or some of us used his tractor) 3-4 times a year. By the time we had 15 houses on the road it was needing to be graded monthly. The HOA paved it with some assistance from the county just after I moved.

    The street I live on now seems to be well constructed, but would not meet the city's requirements for r-o-w and pavement width, drainage, etc. It's a 70 lot sf subdivision three blocks fromthe center of town, but has no connectivity because one side is railroad, the other a large parl and wetlands on the other.

    The street works well as it is, but city would not accept, not because of construction standards, but because it does not meet design standards more appropriate to arterial or collectors than to local streets that could never have through traffic.

    We need to reconsider some of the design standards typical of most city codes.

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