After the Loudon County Planning and Codes Enforcement Commission recently voted to recommend that three roads be adopted by the county, members of the Loudon County Commission expressed reservations Monday at the board's monthly workshop.
Russ Newman, director of the planning office, said that Amberly Court, Porter Lane and McKaymie Lane, which are located near the border with Knox County, were part of a subdivision in which the developer went bankrupt. The lender on the project, BB&T, did not renew the letter of credit, so portions of the subdivision are not complete.
"This is a casualty of real estate market," Newman said. "The developer went bankrupt. The bank foreclosed on the property. The bank has refused to make that final completion." Newman said the roads were up to county standards with the exception of a final coating of about 1 1/2 inches of asphalt.
"I've talked to the bank many times to try and find a solution to it," Newman told the board. "What they would be willing to do, the last offer they proposed to me is that they'd be willing to pay their share of cost of the asphalt, which is based on the number of lots that they still own." The subdivision includes 28 lots and nine homes.
Commissioner Bob Franke said he was concerned about the precedent the county would set if it accepted roads that did not meet current construction standards.
"I guess I'm a little surprised that the planning commission passed this," Franke said. "We have the rules set up for what's required to accept a county road, and the highway superintendent's got his hands full now just trying to maintain the 700 miles of road in the county that are - at least at one time or another - up to county standards."
"I think the planning commission felt like it was the right thing to do considering the situation," Newman said.
"Well, you know, sometimes when you do that you just set a precedent and pretty soon you've got a lot more 'right things to do,' and next thing you know you're spending a bunch of money and you're making the highway department dysfunctional," Franke responded.
Newman emphasized that the planning commission was not recommending that the county immediately complete the roads, just that the board accept them into the county system.
"We've had probably five or six developers that have gone bankrupt on different projects in the county since the real estate downturn," Newman said. "This is the only one that the bank has refused to complete their responsibilities on."
Homeowners within the subdivision questioned the board on who was responsible for completing the roads and signage in the community if the development becomes defunct.
Road Superintendent Eddie Simpson said completion of the three-tenths of a mile of roadway in the subdivision would cost between $50,000-$60,000 to get the streets up to county standards. He said he didn't think that would be fair to residents given the number of roads in the county that are currently in line for repairs and upgrades.
"I've got roads that are 30 years behind at the rear to get paved, and I don't think it's fair to let those 30-year-old roads - those people riding on those everyday - go to be able to come in and spend $50,000 on a new subdivision," he said.
Commissioner Don Miller agreed with Franke that accepting the roads would set a dangerous precedent for the future.
"If we do this, and we assume the responsibility for an unfinished developer obligation or bank obligation, it's going to happen again and again and again," he said.
Commissioner Sharon Yarbrough said the county should consult with County Attorney Bob Bowman and seek a recommendation from him.
In other business, the board:
● Heard a report from Steve Field, with the Solid Waste Commission, on disposal and recycling in the county. Field's report indicated that the county disposed of 237,839 tons of residential solid waste in 2011, which is up from 132,758 in 2010. The county collected 332,377 tons of waste in all categories in 2011, 28.44 percent of which was recycled.
● Considered a resolution to accept Meadow Walk Lane off Highway 11 that is up to county standards.
● Considered approving Ryan Bright, Martin Brown and Howard Luttrell to the Loudon County Board of Zoning Appeals.
● Considered approving Pam McNew and Roger Hale to the Loudon County Regional Planning Commission.