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Archive for Thursday, March 14, 2002

County studies common driveways

March 14, 2002

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Moving into rural Douglas County one day could mean sharing a driveway.

During a discussion of road issues Wednesday night, Douglas County commissioners said they would consider encouraging  or even requiring  new homes in the unincorporated areas of the county to share common driveways. Such driveways, as private roads, currently are prohibited.

The change would be intended to slow the growing number of new access points cutting onto rural roads  roads that are becoming increasingly crowded with traffic as more people move into the country to escape the high costs and fast pace of city life.

Commissioners don't want Douglas County Route 1055 or any other rural route to turn into the equivalent of another 23rd Street in Lawrence.

"It certainly makes sense for safety, and it certainly makes sense economically," Commissioner Bob Johnson said.

The suggestion met with approval from Ernie Butell of Wakarusa Township, who said shared driveways would cut down on drainage problems because roadside ditches wouldn't have as many pipes to get blocked.

But Keith Dabney, the county's director of zoning, raised a few potential roadblocks to the plan.

If two homes shared a driveway on private property, he said, somebody would have to take care of it. And if a driveway were located on one person's land, the other homeowner would have to be guaranteed access to the driveway without actually owning it.

Otherwise, Dabney said, there could be trouble  like the time one neighbor built a fence on the side of his shared driveway, locking the other neighbor out.

"There were cases of houses burned because fire vehicles couldn't get access to the properties," Dabney said, outlining previous ownership squabbles.

"It hasn't been pleasant."

Commissioners didn't commit to any plan, but did ask Dabney and Keith Browning, the county's director of public works, to come up with a proposal to be discussed at a future meeting.

"We are not doing our duty if we don't look out 25 years and try to envision what it's going to be like, and try to put in place regulations today that make it a better place to live years from now," Johnson said.

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