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I'm looking for your experiences with private streets/drives, both horror stories and what works (if anything). Design criteria, restrictions, notification of landowner requirements would be very much appreciated.
We have a couple of subdivisions with private streets. We don't really have any design standards. Planning and Zoning does consider the width in the approval process. The big thing is that the developer knows that when the residents start demanding a higher level street, that the developer or the lot owners pay for it. Also the city does no maintenance so the property owners are sort of on their own.
Private streets have a pretty narrow range of usefulness. There should be a limit to the number of homes allowed on them, and they should not be permitted where a through connection is needed. Also, you just can't go too far in requireing that homebuyers are made aware that they are not going to get most city services there. We now deal with requests from homeowners to take their streets public, but when a cost analysis is done, either the homeowners howl over the cost, or the city ends up taking on a white elephant for rich homeowners.
Several years ago our jurisdiction permitted a small gated subdivision with a private street. The road contractor claimed the developer had not paid him for his work. He removed the subdivision gates and entrance feature and was ready to start ripping up the road when the homeowners pursuaded the courts to step in. As far as I know, it may still be in litigation.
Our practice is to not allow private streets where there is a desire for neighborhood connectivity. In some cases we will allow a street to be built as private with a stipulation that it become dedicated to the city upon request, however, in these cases it is required to be built to city standards. If it is allowed to be a private street, it is the residents' responsibility to maintain it without city participation in the cost.
I recommend against private streets. Okay, I'll admit it, I hate em. Here's why:
1. The property owners on private streets inevitably come in later and ask that the street be taken over for public maintenance. They allege inequities that their tax dollars are paying for roads yet theirs is not being taken over (i.e., the double taxation argument).
2. The city or county is not guaranteed unrestricted access for emergency vehicles. Who will clear the road in the event of tree blowdown, snow, etc.
3. Homeowners associations do not typically budget for maintenance of drainage features along the road, which can become a problem. Associations are often under capitalized for improvements and maintenance.
4. The local government has no easements to bring in utilities down the road in the future, as needed.
5. The local government has no ability to connect the private street with other public streets. The result is an isolated, small road pattern that is
inefficient with regard to service delivery (meter reading, garbage collection, etc.)
6. Inevitably, property owners disagree on how much their share of maintenance costs they will bear, even if an agreement is written. Certain
property owners may not honor that agreement and then they ask the government to intervene. One uncooperative property owner forces problems for all others affected. No recourse but to sue; local government cannot help in such civil
7. Sometimes, private roads are not built to local standards. If not, this is one of the biggest problems.