An ordinance to create a way for private roads to be accepted by the county has made it one step closer to reality.
In a three to two vote commissioners approved the ordinance on first reading that will allow roads that meet a strict criteria to become county roads.
The debate over the ordinance took nearly an hour as commissioners batted back and forth some of the specifics.
The end result limits the dirt roads that can be accepted to those with a 60-foot right-of-way.
Other caveats include:
• Property owners on the road must agree to the county assuming the roads.
• Property owners will be responsible for all costs associated with bringing the road up to county standards (width, ditches and surveying) before the road can be assumed by the county.
The ordinance allows for acceptance for the purpose of keeping the roads scraped and does not include any paving.
There are about 125 miles of privately-held dirt roads in the county. They are currently marked by blue signs.
Commissioner Sherrie Taylor had wanted the width standard dropped to 45 feet which would allow more roads to be included in the number of roads available to be accepted by the county.
County attorney David Weiss explained that the ordinance actually follows the land use code that requires county roads must be 60 feet wide.
Commissioner Gene Morgan stated he did not see the need for a new ordinance saying that the current process where property owners along a road could petition the commission on a case by case method was fine.
He added that it would put an additional burden on taxpayers to take on additional expenses to maintain the dirt roads.
“This is a very, very complicated process,” Morgan said of the new ordinance.
Commissioner Brenda Holt stated that the roads should be brought up to standards before the county accepted them and added that the county budget could not stand to take on that burden.
County administrator Robert Presnell told the commission it cost about $10,000 a mile per year to maintain dirt roads in the county.
Private roads can be scraped by the county at a charge of $90 an hour.
Chairman Eric Hinson said the decision was about priorities. “You need to decide if you want the sheriff in a comfortable building or a 96-year-old woman’s muddy road taken care of,” he said.
Commissioner Doug Croley stated that after originally discussing this issue at the last meeting he had discovered that Florida statutes forbid the spending of funds for private roads.
“I have a lot of concerns about the legality of this ordinance,” he told the commission.
When asked by Hinson about the legality of the ordinance, Weiss said that the ordinance itself was not illegal based on the requirements stipulated that property owners must meet before the road can be accepted into the county.
This ordinance will come up for discussion and a second reading July 1.
Croley and Morgan voted against the ordinance.