Bill’s Ranch residents face road dilemma
SUMMIT COUNTY – Like many other roads in Summit County, Bill’s Ranch Road is privately maintained because it doesn’t meet the county’s width or snow storage standards.
Unlike other privately maintained roads, however, it carries traffic from more than just the neighborhood residents – putting the local homeowners association in a quandary. It can’t afford to maintain it and it’s not allowed to close it off.
The dirt road – known locally as Bill’s Ranch Road, but now officially named Miner’s Creek Road – runs from Eighth Avenue in Frisco (just north of Frisco Elementary School) to the County Commons area.
According to longtime residents of Bill’s Ranch, a historic subdivision just southeast of Frisco, the county regularly graded and plowed the road until the mid-1990s. Now the county grades it about once or twice a year, as a courtesy to the homeowners.
As the county has developed the County Commons area, the road has become a popular shortcut between there and Frisco.
“It gets a lot of county business,” said John Polhemus, director of Summit County’s road and bridge department.
“Bill’s Ranch is caught alongside a road that used to go nowhere and now it’s seeing a lot of use,” said County Commissioner Tom Long. “It gets hammered pretty good.”
“With that kind of usage, there’s no way to keep it up,” said Charlotte Clarke, former president of the Bill’s Ranch Homeowners Association (HOA).
Ideally, the road should be graded every six weeks or so, from spring through autumn, she said, but the HOA can’t afford it.
“We are only a voluntary homeowners association … so we are at the mercy of people’s contributions,” Clarke said.
Only about 50 of the subdivisions approximately 100 homeowners pay the $75 annual membership for the voluntary HOA. That’s not enough to provide the road with the regular maintenance it requires.
“We’re always on a shoestring,” Clarke said. “We have no money.”
Without it, drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians must navigate a stretch of deep potholes for much of the year. Many hug the edge of the road in an attempt to avoid the thrashing, which is leading to the collapse of the road’s culvert.
Sometimes it gets so bad that United Parcel Service and Federal Express drivers say they won’t deliver anymore, Clarke said, noting that the neighborhood’s other roads only require grading every one or two years
“We get so many complaints, it’s awful,” she said.
“Personally, I don’t use that road anymore … because it does beat your vehicle so much,” Polhemus said.
In order for the county to take over the road and provide regular maintenance, however, it must meet county standards and be shown to be economically viable.
That’s not possible in Bill’s Ranch, where the required county right of way would land on the doorsteps of many homes, Polhemus said.
Even if it were possible, the neighborhood would need enough new development or high-dollar homes to generate the taxes required to pay for the cost of the maintenance, said Steve Hill, assistant county manager.
Seeing no other alternatives, the HOA has tried to block off one end of the road to reduce wear and tear but the county said that’s not an option either.
“It’s deeded public access or public right of way,” Polhemus said. “It means the public can use the road – it’s not private.”
Said Ric Pocius, county engineer, “The bottom line is it’s a public road. The public has the right to use that road in the appropriate, legal manner.”
The dilemma is not uncommon in Colorado, he added, where lands have been platted and sold for development without the adequate mechanisms for long-term maintenance.
“The problem with a lot of these areas is the cost of improving those roadways to bring them up to county standards is a very expensive proposition,” Pocius said.
Neighborhood homeowners could put the issue to vote, he said. If the majority vote in favor of it, the county would impose an assessment on their property tax to pay for the maintenance of the road.
With so few homeowners contributing voluntarily, it’s unlikely the HOA could get a majority vote, Clarke said.
Long has met with HOA members about the problem and is working with county staff to see if they can find an alternative solution, since the road benefits not only neighborhood residents but county and Commons staff and Frisco.
“Everybody’s had a hand in it,” Long said. “Things grew up and the road hasn’t. Now we need to see what we can do to improve the situation.”
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