Archive for Thursday, August 8, 2013

Private roads remain thorny issue for the county

The Douglas County Courthouse is the seat of Douglas County government.

The Douglas County Courthouse is the seat of Douglas County government.

August 8, 2013

Douglas County hasn't allowed developers to build private roads since 1998. But during the 26 years before then, when the county did allow private roads, many were built in rural parts of the county, and to this day they can still be the source of controversy.

County commissioners tried to deal with one such road Wednesday. But officials say there may be many more in the county - nobody knows exactly how many - that could become the source of future disputes between property owners for many years to come.

Private roads are those that serve only a few properties. They are owned, built and maintained entirely at the expense of the property owners. They are not public rights of way that are owned and maintained by the county.

The case Wednesday involved a road approved in 1998. It connects with Old U.S. Highway 59, now known as East 1250 Road, about four miles north of the Franklin County line. It was intended to cut across one 5-acre parcel to give access to another, landlocked parcel further away from the highway.

But it was unclear from the 1998 records whether the county intended that road to be used only by the one property owner furthest from the road, who has developed a large single-family home, or if it was intended to serve both.

Commissioners on Wednesday agreed the road was probably intended to serve both parcels. But they said they would only approve joint access to the road if the two property owners can come to an agreement about sharing the cost of maintaining it in the future.

The larger question, however, is how many more such private roads exist in the county that could become the source of future property disputes. And county officials say there's no easy answer to that.

"It is unknown, specifically, how many private roads were approved by Commissions over this 26 year time span, as there was no complete list maintained for private road approvals," Linda Finger, interim director of the Zoning and Codes Department, wrote in an email to commissioners. "What exists is a list created by a former public works employee of private roads in the county, with notations about where these are located and, when known, if they were approved by the (commission)."

In other business, commissioners approved a 10-year, $3.2 million agreement with Motorola Solutions for maintenance and future upgrades to the county's new emergency communications radio system.

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