Resolution will ease petition process for new roads

Douglas County commissioners agree that any new county roads should be financed with property taxes generated by development along the new roadways.

But they had a dispute Monday morning about how that message gets out to the public.

On a 2-1 vote, with Commissioners Bob Johnson and Jere McElhaney in favor, the commission adopted a charter resolution that makes it easier for a property owner to petition for a new road.

Commissioner Charles Jones voted against the resolution, calling for language spelling out that any new roads be “self-supporting.”

“My concern is that accepting roads is accepting the long-term costs associated with those roads,” Jones said after the vote. “I just want to make sure we’re doing our math at the beginning and making sure we’re making smart decisions in terms of whether the roads that we accept are going to be self-supporting.”

Jones had suggested that an economic study be done by a petitioner wanting to create a new county road to make sure the development around it would generate tax revenue sufficient to pay for its upkeep.

However, Johnson and McElhaney said they preferred having self-supporting roads be a “guiding principle” for the county’s public works department.

Johnson said anyone petitioning for a new road already would need to go through the Public Works Department, which would then determine whether property tax revenue would be sufficient to pay for its upkeep.

McElhaney said he feared requiring landowners to provide an economic study on new roads would create an undue hardship, particularly for “old farmers” selling their land for development.

However, Jones wasn’t buying that argument.

“These are not poor old farmers,” Jones said. “They have land to sell.”

Under a previous county resolution, 12 household owners “in the vicinity” of a proposed road would need to petition the county. Under the new ordinance, just one owner could petition.

Keith Browning, county public works director, said the new resolution reflects a change in state law made three to four years ago that reduced the number of petitioners needed to create, alter, relocate or vacate road right of way.

The resolution will be effective in 60 days, subject to a protest petition.

In other action, the commission:

¢ Heard from Pam Weigand, county youth services director, that the county will get supplemental funds from the state. The Shelter Inc. will receive $3,634.02 and Douglas County Youth Services will receive $8,088.65.

¢ Approved a resolution to proclaim May as Older Americans Month. The resolution recognizes that the county is home to more than 11,000 people who are 60 and older.