Volume 3, Number 34 - November 20, 2003
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Subdivision owners urged to cooperate
At the Sublette County Commission meeting Tuesday in Pinedale, the commission heard a discussion about subdivision lot owners in the Broken Hills/Carmichael Hills area near Pinedale and their inability to reach an agreement for road maintenance.
Mark Eatinger of Rio Verde Engineering introduced the discussion, noting that when the final plat for Broken Hills went before the county planning and zoning commission recently, it was tabled because no road maintenance agreement was in place.
The problem is that lot owners in several different subdivisions in the area use Broken Hills Drive, yet the different homeowners associations have failed to reach a road maintenance agreement for the road.
Eatinger first asked the commission if the county would make Broken Hills Drive from the Fremont Lake Road to the end of Broken Hills subdivision a county road.
Commissioner Betty Fear responded: "My initial reaction would be no ... I don't want to set that kind of a precedent."
Eatinger then said there is a taxation without representation problem. He noted that in each subdivision, there is a homeowners association that provides for taxation to take care of issues such as snow removal on roads. He noted that for members of one homeowners association to request that another homeowners association provide funding for road maintenance creates the taxation without representation problem.
Commission Chairman Gordon Johnston said he has a problem with setting that type of a precedent.
"If you have a problem like this ... let the taxpayers in Merna, Boulder and Big Piney solve it with their tax money," Johnston said. "That's what it would be."
Fear agreed, adding, "This is something that we're going to be hearing more of." She said that everyone buying into a subdivision needs to realize road maintenance will be an issue, and the lot owners need to work out these issues.
"I don't think making all these roads a county road is the answer," Fear said.
County Attorney Van Graham explained that the issue before the commission deals with a private easement over which the county has no authority. He said that easement is contingent upon an agreement for road maintenance.
"You're dealing with a private easement over which the county has no responsibility," Graham said. "The easement is granted across Carmichael Hills and Broken Hills to the adjoining large-tract developments, one of which is now going to become Glacier Hills.
"The easement across it is contingent upon an agreement," Graham said. "If the other landowners beyond that don't want to enter into an agreement, then their easement is contingent upon that.
"The only way the county gets involved in this, is through language in the plat ... if they can't agree to the proportionment share, they can come to the county commission to decide upon the proportionment share among the different owners."
Carmichael Hills homeowner Bill Twichell, a local attorney, told the commission that as additional subdivision occurs in the area, "that is going to create some problems."
"The time to take care of that and work out an agreement is now," Twichell said, before Hidden Hills subdivision lots are sold. "Nobody really seems to want to sit down and work this out."
Fear suggested that all the lot owners in all the subdivisions sign onto one road maintenance agreement and assess everyone equally.
Graham explained: "If Glacier Hills wants to use the easement across the subdivision, then as a contingency, they have to enter into an agreement. If they don't, they don't have an easement. If Hidden Hills, later to be developed, wants an easement across those subdivisions, they have to enter into an agreement. If they don't, they don't have an easement. It's just that simple."
One of the homeowners' associations had proposed that a barricade be erected at the end of Glacier Hills Subdivision to stop traffic from one subdivision from using the road into the adjacent subdivision, and asked the commission if that would be an acceptable action.
The commission noted it has no authority over such an action, but Fear also added: "Well, its not acceptable. When we have to settle these things by putting up roadblocks, it reminds me of children in a sandbox."
Johnston said, "The more I hear about it, the more I'm inclined to believe that the county should never take that road." Johnston urged that all parties sit down together and work out an agreement.
Fear agreed, stating, "It's up to all of you to determine what is going to be done, not us."
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