Archive for Tuesday, January 30, 1996


January 30, 1996


County commissioners don't want private roads used as the tools for assembling unplatted rural subdivisions.

Two proposals to develop unplatted rural subdivisions around a combination of private and public roads got a chilly reception Monday from the Douglas County Commission.

The requests went too far even for Louie McElhaney, the commission's chairman and a supporter of using private roads for access to rural homesites. McElhaney said the two proposals exceeded the intent of the regulation that allows three homesites on a privately owned and maintained driveway.

``I'm a believer in the private road and using it in the right form and I'm even in favor of having more than three (building) permits off of a private road, if it's for good reason,'' McElhaney said.

``I had never dreamed, I had never thought that this or the other one was a good reason for a private road,'' he said of the proposals the commission looked at Monday.

In both cases, the plans put two private roads in a tract of land, with each road serving three homesites. Other lots in each tract would take access from township or county roads as well as U.S. Highway 59, which has been the focus of public concern about traffic congestion and safety.

Ottawa resident John Taylor's project would put 14 homesites on an 80-acre tract about 2.5 miles north of the Douglas-Franklin county line on the east side of Highway 59.

The other proposal would establish eight homesites on a 52-acre tract four miles north of the county line on the west side of the highway. That proposal was submitted by Charles Townsend, a neighboring property owner.

Commissioner Jim Chappell, who cast the only dissenting vote in decisions to reject the proposals, said he didn't like passing judgment on development plans when the commission had no guidelines in place. Chappell said it would be arbitrary to reject these three-homesite private road requests when others have been routinely allowed.

Commissioner Mark Buhler, who voted with McElhaney, said the subdivision proposals should go through a formal planning process because the land's agricultural status would end.

``This is development,'' Buhler said. ``I don't care what you call it, this is development and development and land-use changes need to have public review.''

Taylor estimated the tab for going through the formal process of platting a subdivision at $7,000. Building a single interior road for the subdivision up to county standards could add another $40,000 to the up-front costs of doing the development, he said.

``The cost differential would make it prohibitive,'' he said.

Taylor also noted that the tracts could be developed without the county's blessing for private roads but that would mean giving more of the homesites access from public roadways.

McElhaney asked the land owners to give the county time to develop criteria and explore the possibilities for compromise on the more costly aspects of subdivision development.

``If Mr. Taylor goes out and cuts an entrance off of 59 to every one of these lots, then I think we have done an injustice here today,'' McElhaney said.

Townsend, who won't take any access from U.S. 59 unless he can't use private roads, and Taylor both said they could give the county a month to work out a compromise.

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