Again for almost an hour the county commissioners discussed the ordinance adopting the procedure for accepting private roads into the county.
This ordinance has drawn a lot of debate that continued at the meeting last week. Several points have been debated over and over that include the required 60-foot width of the roads and the actual procedure to accept the roads.
The new ordinance states in short that:
“The Board may be willing to consider a process by which it could consider accepting property interests in and maintenance responsibility for (but not paving) some such roadways upon a finding that the individual roadway meets or can meet county road standards, that all owners of the property necessary for the individual roadway to come into compliance with county road standards voluntarily convey all desired property interests to the county, that all costs associated with the acquisition of the desired property interests and meeting county road standards are paid by the owners of the necessary property, and that acceptance of the desired property interests and maintenance responsibility would enhance the county’s road system, benefit county citizens, and therefore serve a public purpose by improving the public health, safety and welfare.”
County attorney David Weise explained that all residents on the road must sign a petition and that the petition must be brought to the commission.
At that point, he explained, the county staff at the direction of the commissioners would review the petition and determine if it met the county’s criteria for accepting dirt roads as county property.
If it did not meet the requirements, Weise said, the commission would have to turn it down.
If it was approved, the residents would be required to pay to have the road comply with county specifications.
Once the road was brought up to standards and verified by county staff, it would again be brought to the commission for final acceptance
Commissioner Sherrie Taylor had an issue with the process saying that if the residents spent the money to have the road meet county requirements there could be a possibility that the commission could turn them down.
Weise explained that probably would not happen at that point, saying that if the residents complied with the criteria that they had expectations of the road being accepted.
The width of the road was again an issue as Taylor wanted the width to be dropped to a 45-foot requirement. Weiss said the Land Use Codes required 60-foot right-of-ways. The only way that could change, he said, was a change in the Land Use Codes.
Commissioner Doug Croley stated that the 60-foot width was also a requirement by the state.
The state, he said, funded county road monies based on the county having a 60-foot right-of-way requirement.
To change the requirement, he said, could jeopardize state funding.
Taylor responded by saying that the current 60-foot requirement would eliminate a lot of roads in the county, something she did not feel was fair.
Croley also commented that there were subdivisions in the county that, when approved, had stipulations that the roads would not revert to the county.
Commissioner Brenda Holt added to that saying that she was aware of two such subdivisions where that issue would apply.
Holt asked the commissioners to consider a sunset clause in the ordinance saying she would like to see how it worked before making it permanent.
Chairman Eric Hinson agreed and recommended that the ordinance sunset in three years.
Commissioner Gene Morgan stated the county already had two avenues for private roads: paying the county for scraping or individuals petitioning the commission to accept their road.
Croley said he was concerned that the ordinance may have conflicts with state statutes.
When asked by Hinson if the ordinance was legal, Weise said that as written the ordinance did meet state requirements.
Weise explained that it was important how roads were accepted, saying that those roads must meet the criteria as well as benefit the county road system.
County administrator Robert Presnell gave an example of an ineligible road as one that had only one house.
Croley stated that he had concerns about having enough tax revenue to maintain new dirt roads in the county as well as maintaining existing roads.
He added that the county had one of the highest traffic incident rates in DOT District 3 (North Florida).
Added to the ordinance in Holt’s motion was that the ordinance sunsets in three years and that documentation concerning subdivision roads being given to the county be reviewed.
The board passed the ordinance in a 4-1 vote with Morgan voting against the motion.