Summit County, homeowners square off over crumbling road
summit daily news
SUMMIT COUNTY – The county commissioners and homeowners in the Whispering Pines neighborhood will try to avert a legal battle over a crumbling road in the subdivision with a meeting this week.
Homeowner Association president Alastair Stone and several residents of the subdivision met with the commissioners at a work session Tuesday to discuss the condition of Whispering Pines Ranch Road, the main artery leading from Summit Cove into the neighborhood.
The road has deteriorated since it was built, and was described as “an atrocity” by developer Dave Hammer. Several side roads are also crumbling. Legend Circle was characterized as a minefield, and some residents expressed concern about the ability of emergency vehicles to access their properties.
The homeowners association recently asked the commissioners to take over full maintenance for the road system in the neighborhood, but county staff recommended against the move, citing a need for more than $1 million worth of repairs that need to be done first.
That amount far exceeds the county’s total road budget, which has been hovering in the vicinity of about $600,000 annually for the past few years. Assistant county manager Thad Noll said that codes require the county’s road and bridge department to inspect the road before taking on maintenance. Including the Whispering Pines road system could bust the county’s road budget, he said.
The homeowner believe the county has some reasonable liability for the condition of the roads, based on past repairs it has done as well as on the fact that the road is used as an arterial by county buses.
“It was never designed to be a main arterial road,” said developer Dave Hammer, who took over the development in 2004, after the original developer went bankrupt. “I think it’s going to turn into a legal battle,” he said.
In some places, the roads were built in crumbly shale, and water percolates near the surface, especially in wet years. As result, sinkholes have formed in places, including on Grays Peak Drive, which has become difficult to drive on. It’s questionable whether snowplows can maneuver safely on that road until it’s been repaired.
The commissioners believe they are within their legal rights to turn down the homeowner request, based on county codes. The somewhat complex rules provide for a probationary period, during which the county can agree to do snow removal. Once a neighborhood requests full maintenance, the county has the right to make sure the roads are up to a certain standard before taking them over.
“We have no record of anyone requesting full maintenance before,” Noll said.
The homeowners came to the meeting apparently ready to do legal battle. Hammer said he was never notified of the county’s road study and disputed the findings.
The commissioners sought to defuse the situation by calling for a meeting between county staffers and the homeowners.
“There ought to be a way to get something going without getting out the pitchforks and going after each other,” said commissioner Bob French. “Before we decide to pay or not to pay, we need more information,” he added.
The two sides will sit down together within the next week to decide what needs to be done, as well as who will pay for it. One option could be to make incremental improvements to the main road during the next few years to bring it up to county standards.
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