Market conditions leads to snowier streets

Some subdivisions cut back on plowing

The slow housing market has had an unusual effect on new home buyers. Many residents in new subdivisions in the county are finding out more than they ever wanted to know about the process of building new streets.

Residents of the village of Amelia’s South Ridge subdivision have seen their roads plowed infrequently this winter. Amelia Mayor Leroy Ellington said he has received numerous complaints about the conditions of the roads and he has offered to contract with the developer for snow removal. The developer has declined. Woodside Park subdivision, Ellington said, has been very clean.

“I want to offer assurances to our residents and to council that we’ll stay on top of the developer on this and make sure he’s providing the services he’s supposed to provide,” Ellington said. “It ends up reflecting poorly on the village. These people just moved into the community maybe a year ago and they’re happy to have a new home and right at the end of their street they can see where the road is completely clear. They don’t get any credit on their tax bill for the fact that they’re not getting their street cleaned.”

He said the village will be forwarding all complaints to the developer at (513) 575-7506 ext. 17 and will follow up with the developer on any complaints they receive.

South Ridge subdivision residents have had particular problems with snow removal on their streets, but they are not the only county residents to have a difficult time getting out of their subdivision in bad weather.

Batavia Township administrator Rex Parsons said his township has between five and six subdivisions with undedicated roads. The Batavia Township Trustees have decided to offer the township’s snow clearing services to the subdivision owners at their operating cost.

“These residents have bought homes in our township and they’re receiving police, fire, and emergency services, but they live on what are considered private roads,” Parsons said. “The developers have to hire us.”

He said if the developers are interested they would pay a total estimated cost up front for plowing and salting services up front. The roads would then be plowed the same as every other township road. Parsons said the township uses between 400 and 500 pounds of salt per lane mile in addition to fuel and labor costs. The difference between the estimated and actual costs would then be settled at the end of the plowing season.

Goshen Township public works administrator Lou Clemens said his township has about four subdivisions which are still under construction. The township also has a significant number of private roads which have not been designed to become township roads. Clemens said Goshen Township at one time contracted their snow removal services to private road owners and home owner’s associations, but the township no longer has the capability to plow all private and non-dedicated roads in the township.

“With the economy the way it is we don’t have the drivers or equipment to expand our operations,” Clemens said. “I think we do a good job on the roads we do maintain but I don’t think we can stretch our operation to others.”

Clemens said in the event of an emergency his crews will lead police, fire, and EMS responders to homes on private and undedicated roads with a snow plow, often going right up a driveway, to ensure the emergency crews can do their job, but that is the only circumstance his crews enter private property.

He said it is frustrating for him when residents on non-dedicated roads complain about the condition of their streets, but it is an issue that has to be addressed privately.

“It’s a catch 22 because you want to help these people,” Clemens said. “We don’t have the legal right to go into private property and unfortunately some of these subdivisions have drug out for several years. It’s a sign of the times and it’s just one of those issues we’re going to have to deal with.”

The county has a very specific process by which subdivision roads become maintained by their local government and during the housing boom the process often took as little as two or three years.

When a developer receives approval for construction of a subdivision they are required to build roads that meet the quality specifications set by the county’s rules for subdivisions, which is enforced through a bond. Generally they do not complete the roads until all houses have been completed on that road in order to prevent damaging the roads with construction equipment. Once the final coat of asphalt is in place, most bonds dictate that the road cannot be dedicated for another year in order to ensure there are no problems with the road. The process is designed to protect tax payers from repair costs on roads that were not originally built at the county’s required level of quality.

“Eventually these will be township roads but right now they don’t have the final coat of asphalt on,” Parsons said.

Until the road is dedicated the road must be maintained privately. Each subdivision has its own contract with home owners as to who’s responsibility the maintenance of the roads becomes until they are dedicated.

Regional developer for the Realty Executives of Ohio, Kentucky, and West Virginia Greg Traynor said the title company for the development has the responsibility to provide potential buyers with the assurance that their non-dedicated road will be maintained until it becomes a public road.

“For homeowners looking to buy in one of these subdivisions I would suggest they hire competent legal counsel who can direct them on matters of owners title insurance policies and make sure the proper coverage is issued for their protection,” Traynor said. “If they have already purchased the home and find themselves (with maintenance issues), then they should check with the county to see if the proper surety bonds were issued and being enforced by the county, township, city, or village officials to assure the roads will be completed to a standard that will allow for the county to begin maintenance.”

Often the surety bonds do not specify required maintenance while the road is under construction, which means any dispute must be resolved between the home owners and the developer.

“The bond (for South Ridge) is for road construction, it’s not for salting and maintaining,” Amelia Village solicitor Laura Abrams said. “We have encouraged people in the past to just contract with the village, and they have. In 2008 they stopped contracting with us.”

Residents of the Easter Valley Subdivision in Bethel have had several issues and several residents have asked the Bethel Village Council to intervene. Councils has made it clear on several occasions that its hands are tied until the roads meet county specifications and are dedicated.

Union Township administrator Ken Geis said residents in incomplete subdivisions in his township do see their roads cleared for the most part, but often not at the same level of service the township provides.

“We try to get the roads 100 percent clear as quickly as possible,” Geis said. “Some builders don’t always get to that level, their roads are only just passable. We don’t necessarily like the situation.”

He said the township receives very few complaints about the condition of the relatively few non-dedicated roads in the township.

“We get a lot less complaints than we did 25 years ago,” Geis said. “Market builders are much more up front about (the situation).”

He said when he does receive complaints from home owners, most are very understanding once he explains the situation.