VERSAILLES – When a new subdivision is planned, what comes first – the houses or the roads? That question has been plaguing county commissioners and planners alike for some time. As more and more homes are sold and occupied, subdivision residents start demanding better streets, but if streets are complete before homes are built, heavy construction vehicles moving in and out will ruin those roads.

County surveyor Jeff French, along with Ripley County Area Planning Commission director Tad Brinson, spoke with commissioners Monday, Nov. 7, about variances in planning commission and county highway department road standards.

French said the problem “really came to light” when speaking to Eugene Gunter, developer of Woodland Trace, a subdivision south of Batesville on Delaware Road. The surveyor said that the highway department requires developers to maintain a road for a year after it is turned over to the county, but the planning commission doesn’t have that rule.

“Discrepancies need to be straightened out without a doubt. I know the commissioners and I have talked about this before.,” said Bob Reiners, president of the commissioners. The chief concern is that roads made by developers are built properly before they are taken over by the county. “I just don’t like seeing those roads being built before we know anything about them,”said Chuck Folz, commissioner.

“The county highway department should do an inspection (on a new road) and make sure it comes up to standards,” said French. Currently developers carry a bond for up to three years after a road is completed to allow the county to come back to them during that period to solve problems involving roads and other infrastructure.

“What if after three years, nothing’s been done to the subdivision?” asked Folz. “Can (people) build houses after we’ve given approval for the road?” He and the other commissioners would like to see the rules change so that they are not required to accept the road until the subdivision is 80 percent completed with footers dug.

“Just because lots are plotted off, doesn’t mean they’re going to sell,” remarked Reiners. French pointed out that sometimes people buy lots for an investment or as a future homesite, leaving them vacant for long periods of time.

County attorney Neil Comer noted, “I’m not sure you can make a rule that can apply in all those circumstances. To try to make it all one rule, it’s going to make it difficult.”

Reiners stated that he would meet with highway department representatives to try to come up with a county-wide policy. “You gave us some good ideas. We’ll hash it back and forth and will put something together and bring it back to you guys,” he promised French and Brinson.

Commissioners signed new ordinances for the planning commission, as presented by Brinson. They involved a change to the zone map definition, removal of a now obsolete section on permitted uses on farmstead lots, replacement of the 1991 zone maps and an amendment that states: “All surveys and plats of land in the A-1 or A-2 agriculture districts shall include the “Agricultural Restrictive Covenant...”

Brinson explained that this covenant protects farmers when neighbors complain about bad odors (from livestock). “If the farm’s there before you, you have to put up with it.”

Discussion took place regarding the hiring of an inspector for buildings tagged as potentially unsafe structures under the county’s new ordinance. “Someone has to be able to inspect them and declare them unsafe .... I don’t want to go headhunting on this, but it’s just a matter that they’re dangerous," remarked Reiners.

Brinson said he believed there would be less than 12 buildings to be inspected at the onset and there should be only a few a year to inspect after that. Whomever is hired will probably be paid with a set consultant fee. “He (or she) won’t make the decision, we will make the decision. He will just be giving us an opinion,” Reiners noted.

Debbie McIntyre can be contacted at (812) 934-4343, Ext. 114, or debbie.mcintyre@cnhimedia. com.

Recommended for you