Residents speak up on Liberty Subdivision
Roads and subdivisions dominated discussions at today’s Jefferson County Board of Supervisors meeting.
A crowd attended to hear the supervisors’ action about a proposed final plat for Liberty Subdivision, proposed by Bob Houghner, a resident adjacent to West Hills Subdivision.
No action was taken today.
“Mr. Houghner has been easy for us to work with, but according to legal counsel, we can’t approve [the final plat] until we see an agreement [about the road],” said supervisor chairman Lee Dimmitt.
The road in question is the main access road for West Hills, which also would be the main access through West Hills to Liberty Subdivision.
“We’re not approving or disapproving,” said supervisor Dick Reed. “We’re tabling this.”
Houghner had been to supervisors meetings in past months and had been told to widen a road that ended in a cul-de-sac and to make the cul-de-sac large enough for fire truck turn-arounds. On today’s plat, those changes had been made.
“I’ve had some phone calls about this proposed subdivision,” said Reed. “This subdivision is off the side of a current subdivision, West Hills, and residents have expressed concern about extra use of the road for contractors and construction equipment.
“I don’t remember if we’ve ever approved a subdivision that is off the side of another.”
Assistant County Attorney Pat McAvan said that was the board’s original concern.
“It would be cleaner to re-subdivide West Hills, making one larger subdivision, than to create two different subdivisions this way,” said McAvan.
As one subdivision, each resident would have an equal voice about the privately owned road (owned by the Home Owners Association of West Hills).
County Engineer Scott Cline said he had a phone conversation in which the caller said if construction contractors do anything to the roads, they should be responsible for repairs.
Dan Breen said as West Hills grew, the once-seal coated road was broken up by construction equipment as new houses were built, and the subdivision’s road is now a gravel road.
Another West Hills Subdivision resident said as treasurer of the Home Owners Association, he didn’t know about the proposed Liberty Subdivision until reading about it in The Ledger recently.
“We’re OK with having another subdivision developed, but it’s at the end of a private road,” he said. “The road is covered by a covenant. There’s been a lot of destruction to the road as more houses went up, and we’ve been waiting for one more to be finished to decide what to do about the road.
“I’d like to work with Mr. Houghner, outside of this meeting of the supervisors,” he said. “I’d like to have an agreement with Mr. Houghner to restore the road. I’m willing to work together.”
Houghner said he’d done everything legally the supervisors had asked him to do to finalize Liberty Subdivision.
Reed acknowledged that was true.
“If there’s no written agreement in place about the road, I don’t know how you can ensure access,” said McAvan. “West Hills homeowners could decide to gate the road.
“The county’s issue is subdivisions need to have access to roads, the county cannot land-lock any lots.”
Houghner said today was his third time to attend a supervisor’s meeting and the issue of accessing the road hadn’t been previously discussed with him.
A third resident of West Hills, who said he just moved in at the end of February, said if West Hills Home Owners Association had gated the road, the current conversation wouldn’t be taking place.
“I think there’s a win-win here, I’m willing to work with all sides,” he said. “I believe in holding people accountable for damages. We’ve gotten a draft written about a use agreement. We all pay annual fees for the road, I’d like to see this move forward in a progressive manner and everyone having equal access. It should be a joint effort between the subdivisions.
“We have the drafts of agreement for homeowners to approve, but we need to have legal rights.”
Houghner’s wife said she and her husband, living on a lot that will be made a part of Liberty Subdivision, have, “always paid our fair share for the road’s maintenance. We wouldn’t necessarily agree to pay for a road upgrade.”
As words flew back and forth among those in the audience, McAvan said the discussion needed to take place outside a board of supervisor’s meeting.
“The board is not an arbitrator,” said McAvan. “Your agreement needs to be brought to the board for approval or disapproval. Legal issues need to be worked out and yes, it is about being good neighbors.”
Houghner asked if he complies with all the county laws about subdivisions and, “If I satisfy all those, and return ….?”
Reed said he couldn’t see not approving the final plat of the proposed subdivision.
In another vein, Reed asked Cline to implement a system of keeping the board of supervisors informed about citizens’ road concerns.
“We take lots of calls about roads and we call those into the engineer’s office,” said Reed. “But we never know the follow-up. Did a hole get patched? Was something checked out and determined not needing anything? Or something scheduled for the future? Supervisors deserve to know the answers because we answer to the taxpayers.”
Dimmitt agreed the supervisors and secondary roads department could use better communication.