COLUMBIA — Proposed changes to county regulations that would restrict development of private roads provoked skeptical questions from Boone County Planning and Zoning Commission members at a work session Thursday with county commissioners.
The proposed changes would allow property owners to split their land into only two properties along a private road if their property is larger than 10 acres. No subdivisions along private roads would be allowed for properties smaller than 10 acres.
Commission member Carl Freiling expressed concern that the proposed regulations would lower local property values by "millions."
"There are so many properties that will basically become ineligible for any development except agriculture," Freiling said. "We're a suburbanized county. The value of these properties is in residential use."
Thaddeus Yonke, the Boone County senior planner, said some of the changes in the regulations only clarify existing regulations, which are often abused. The current practice is to allow developers to divide six lots along a private road, when regulations only allow four, Yonke said.
Southern District County Commissioner Karen Miller said the regulations were in response to complaints she and other commissioners had received of poor signage and other safety hazards on private roads. Miller said one of her constituents had hung up on her recently when she tried to explain to him that the county was not responsible for the conditions of private roads.
"I don't mind people hanging up on me," Miller said. "My discomfort is not being able to find a solution."
Commission member Greg Martin said some developers sell lots on private roads to buyers who are unaware that they must bear the costs of the road's maintenance. Other commission members agreed that the new regulations should address these maintenance agreements between private road residents.
The three county commissioners and many of the commission members also agreed that private roads should be subject to more regulations regarding width and signage, while retaining their cheaper cost. Many stressed the importance of making the roads wide enough to allow two cars to pass.
"If a house is on fire, the fire truck should be able to get around you," commission member Boyd Harris said.
Many of the commissioners and commission members showed support for the proposed restrictions on family transfers, which exempt property owners from regulations when dividing private road lots among family members. Yonke said landowners often abuse family transfers to create "de facto subdivisions."
Presiding County Commissioner Dan Atwill argued that family transfers should be abolished.
Miller said she hopes to pass the proposed regulations, which have been in the works since 2009, before a new commissioner is elected next year. "We don't want to have to bring a new commissioner up to speed," Miller said.
Some commission members and developers in attendance said they have not had adequate time to study the proposed changes.
Miller asked the commission members and developers to submit questions and comments to her and the other commissioners by Oct. 15. County commissioners plan to vote on the regulations by the end of the year.
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