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April 17, 2013

County sorting through private road issues

MILLEDGEVILLE —

The roads at The Preserve at Meriwether and The Oaks Subdivision are giving homeowners fits. The Baldwin County Commissioners want to fix the issue, but current options look financially grim.

District 5 citizens affected contacted Johnny Westmoreland about the lack of road patching, grass cutting and ditch maintenance in the subdivisions. These roads were never deeded over to the county by the now bankrupt developers.

“This board would actually have to vote to bring these roads into the public road system otherwise they are still private and according to state law we cannot put county personnel or expend county funds on private property,” county manager Ralph McMullen said.

The development companies put up bonds that have since expired. McMullen said the county tried to restrict the group from selling properties to private citizens without fully developed roads.

County attorney David McRee said most of this activity occurred between 2005 and 2009 before the housing market crashed. As the bubble burst, the developers dropped the projects and walked away, according to McMullen.

“It's not a situation that's unique to Baldwin County,” McRee said. “I'm sure it's a nationwide problem.”

Westmoreland said the roads were never close to being finished.

“You've got the first layer of the road down,” the district 5 commissioner said. “You don't have the finished product. That's why the people are having so many problems.”

The property right-of-ways never transferred to the county or a homeowners association.

“All of that belongs to the developer,” Westmoreland said.

McRee reminded the board they already own a number of lots in the affect subdivisions through tax sales. Sammy Hall, District 3, asked if foreclosure was an option.

“If we take in these roads, they are ours forever,” McRee said. “If you do that, you have to expend the money to bring them up to the necessary standards, and you are looking at money you don't have budgeted.” 

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