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the trouble with private roads?

Sue

Member
Messages
21
Points
2
I know this is an urban planning listserve, but it's all I have and I need some help.
I work for a rural county in which the commission refuses to take over maintainance of any new roads. As you can imagine I feel like a planner with my arms cut off! There are areas where connectivity is essential to make traffic circulation safe and efficient, but there is too much liability in opening up roads that are privately maintained for public use.
Anyone have any helpful suggestions where I can find real life situations that I can present to the commission to help me present my argument?

Anyone know of any rural planning listserves?
 

el Guapo

Capitalist
Messages
5,995
Points
31
Sue,
Rural issues are discussed here all the time. Just not at the same frequency as urban. Good luck finding an answer to your situation.
EG
 

Budgie

Cyburbian
Messages
5,270
Points
30
Private Rural Roads

Sue:

You should call Jerry Fowler the Public Works Director in Saline County, Kansas. I was the Planning Director there for 5 years and we did not approve a new public road the entire time I was there. In fact we closed more right-of-way than we opened (vacation of unnecessary rural roads reduces maintenance costs, reduces liability, prevents people from getting stuck, and puts land back on the tax roles). But we did approve private roads with required Homeowners Association construction and maintenance. In addition, we required public access primarily to ensure the provision of fire and police services. Private road easements are required to extend to the property line to allow access to adjacent tracts.

We adopted a revised Comprehensive Plan in May 2001 that included an implementation action to revise the subdivision regulations to require development that has access to adjacent private roads to enter into an agreement with the adjacent HOA to contribute to the maintenance of the previously built private road. In other words, if you access my private road, you have to pay me your fair share of maintenance in addition to building your own private road.
 

Budgie

Cyburbian
Messages
5,270
Points
30
Defer Maintenance?

Sue:

Often times the term "private road" is synonimus with "defer maintenance", meaning that as soon as the private HOA fails to meet their maintenance responsibilities they will petition the County to take over maintenance. This is due to unrealistic expectations about "country living", HOA's that are poorly administered and the elected officials changing willingness to accept responsibility for formerly private roads.

Case in point, the Sundowner West development in Saline County, KS. It was platted and partially developed in the mid-1970's with private roads. In the early 1980's there was a change in the elected officials and the Public Works Director. The new officials accepted the private roadway as public even though the roadway was not built to minimum County specifications and increased the maintenance burden for Countywide tax payers.

In part it's a question of the elected officials commitment to provide road infrastructure while further burdening the existing tax payers, in the long run.
 

Chet

Cyburbian Emeritus
Messages
10,623
Points
34
Do you allow different design standards for private roads? We don't.

They have the same construction standard as a city owned street and can be either rural or urban cross-section. All our private streets include easement requirements for public use. All properties on private streets are deed restricted to stip that the City can repiar and assess any neglected maintenance.

The only design incentive for a private street is that they aren't within a 60 foot wide right-of-way, with XX foot setback requirements.

Good luck on your case.
 

Sue

Member
Messages
21
Points
2
Yes our private roads have the same design standards and we require a maintenance agreement, but no public use is addressed. Sounds like we should also require some sort of waiver to protest incorporating new users. I think it should also have some sort of length/dwelling limitation until a secondary ingress/egress is incorporated.

The incentive to reduce the right-of-way sounds like it could be a problem b/c when adjacent landowners want to divide they would be subject to landowners who don't want any more development in the "backyard"

Thanks for the help.
 

Tom R

Cyburbian
Messages
2,274
Points
25
Roads

Some of the local governments love private roads because there is no tax money in maintenance. (Personally, I think that private streets should serve a limited number of dwelling units). Most local governments require streets/roads to be built to certain standards. The trouble with this is that the County Engineer will only inspect public streets. This raises the option that the local government can consider hiring a private engineer to do the inspection and require the developer foot the bill, Also, only public streets have a performance bond attached.

We have wrestled with this numerous times. One thing several of the developers have said is that the construction of the roads is not the issue its the setback requirements. We have encouraged local governments to adopt reduced set back requirements as a conditional use but so far, no luck. We also do not permit a private street to connect between two public streets. Also, we have a 50 du limit on subdivisions with only one access/ingress and a 20 du limit on cul-de-sac streets. Our problemnow is how to define the difference between the two and how to measure the beginning and end of a cul-de-sac. Currently we permit mor than 50 dus with a temporary emergency access road (with an easement) and require/encourage "stub" streets to undeveloped land.

Basically its a constant hassel.
 

giff57

Corn Burning Fool
Staff member
Moderator
Messages
5,443
Points
34
In my old job,we allowed private streets in order to get residential development. We had lower standards an an agreement for maintenance, and that they would be brought up to standard if they wanted to dedicate them in the future. We really didn't have any trouble with them, although other cities have.
 

Sue

Member
Messages
21
Points
2
more on my private road problem

One important aspect I forgot to mention is that 3/4 of my county is a soverign indian nation and the county does not recieve recieve tax revenue from tribal members.
County Road maintnenance and the Sheriff's department are our biggest expenditures and the existing county roads are hurting for improvement.
It just seems that lack of the ability to create a safe access that meets county standards is holding up development of some the best area's for growth, and compromising the land that should be maintained for agriculture and wildlife.
Our regs allow for a maximum cul-de-sac length of 1500 feet with no more than 15 dwellings before a secondary ingress/egress is necessary. In looking at ways to provide a secondary egress, I'm struggling with the liability issue of private roads that are utilized by the public.
 

Sue

Member
Messages
21
Points
2
That would be a great idea if he knew anything about land use law :)
I do have other legal resources and that is a great suggestion.
Thanks again for all the help!
 

Tom R

Cyburbian
Messages
2,274
Points
25
roads

I would think that that would be more in the lines of municipal /county liability than land use.
 

Budgie

Cyburbian
Messages
5,270
Points
30
Legal Issues

It has been my experience that the main legal issues with private roads are:

1. The County's legal ability to hold "private" roads to a "public" standard;

2. Establishing a public right of access through the easement, this should include utility rights as well as access;

3. Establishing an equitable maintenance and construction cost system whereby adjacent properties that access private roads pay a "buy in" sum to the HOA;

4. Creating a strong HOA that is held to maintenance standards and procedures;

5. Under what circumstances should the local government be compelled to take over private roads and make them public;

6. How is liable for damages related to access and design issues.

I'm sure there are more.
 
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