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Council gives first nod to closing county road system

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By Chris Sardelli

Years of problems maintaining the county’s crumbling roads and how to pay for much-needed repairs have county officials considering closing the county road system for good.

During its Monday meeting, Aug. 11, Lancaster County Council discussed the benefits and ramifications of a proposal to close the county’s road system effective Jan. 1, 2016. 

If approved, following three ordinance readings, the county would no longer accept any new segments of roads, unless council makes a special exception. 

County Administrator Steve Willis said this would change the current county code which allows the acceptance of a road if it meets certain construction standards. The proposed ordinance closely mirrors similar requirements by the state Highway Commission for accepting new roads into the state road system. 

“This would close acceptance of new roads. It would require a supermajority, two-thirds of the vote, to accept a new road into the system,” Willis said. 

In a memo to council, Willis pointed out that the supermajority means it would take more than just four votes to accept a new road.

He also noted that this would not change the county’s longstanding policy of not accepting sidewalks, decorative asphalt, or landscaping into the county road system. 

Though she planned on voting for first reading, Councilwoman Charlene McGriff said she wanted to do some more research on the issue. 

“When I read through it, I realized I need to ask some more questions,” she said. 

Councilman Jack Estridge urged his fellow council members to approve the ordinance. 

“We can’t keep up with the roads we have. If we keep accepting roads into the system, we can’t handle them,” Estridge said. 

Also concerned with the county’s already large list of roads included in its system was Councilman Larry Honeycutt. He asked if new developers would be informed that the county will no longer accept roads into its system, if the ordinance were ultimately approved. 

“With development agreements, we need to tell them up front no roads will be accepted,” Honeycutt said. “Right now we cannot afford to keep taking roads.”

Councilman Steve Harper asked Willis if this would apply to all subdivisions in the county.

“With the ones with no development agreement, they’d face the Jan. 1, 2016 deadline,” Willis said. “For ones with a development agreement, it could supersede. So for places like Walnut Creek and Sun City (Carolina Lakes) who have development agreements, those would supersede this.”

The burden would then fall to individual homeowners’ associations of those developments to take on the responsibility, said Councilman Bob Bundy.

“For active HOA’s that put enough money aside, it would work. For other HOA’s that barely scrape by it will pose problems,” Bundy said. “We need to be ready for the problems it might create, because if HOA’s are negligent, who will help if this passes because the county won’t step in?”

Councilman Brian Carnes said he had mixed emotions about the idea.

“There’s a lot of developments in my district. The homeowners pay the same fee, the same 1-cent sales tax, the gas tax,” Carnes said. “I have a problem from that standpoint that we’re pushing taxpayers, how inequitable it can be. I think it’s an inequality between the taxpayers and the county.”

Estridge turned to him and responded that council was “not just picking on Indian Land.”

Carnes sternly replied. 

“In the last 10 years I don’t remember any subdivision going in your district, they are all in Indian Land,” Carnes said. 

Council then decided to vote 5-2 to approve first reading of the ordinance to close the county road system. Carnes and Harper dissented. 

Council will consider second reading at its Aug. 25 meeting. 

 

Contact reporter Chris Sardelli at (803) 416-8416