By Alex Bridges
A little money can go a long way toward improving private roads in Warren County under a state transportation program.
Neighborhoods can apply to participate in the program through the county and the Virginia Department of Transportation. Under the program, property owners associations can decide to pay 25 percent of the cost for VDOT to pave a road to certain standards and bring the route into the state secondary road system as a rural addition.
Deputy County Administrator Robert Childress pointed out Thursday that such improvements to neighborhood roads likely could increase property values. Paving a road helps eliminate the dust often created by gravel surfaces.
"A paved road is going to improve your overall quality of life by not having to deal with that dust all the time," Childress said.
The county has six rural addition projects spanning 1.8 miles at various stages of development, according to information from Childress. All six are funded through the VDOT program. The total cost of the projects is estimated at $1.73 million. Under the program, VDOT reimburses the county for 50 percent of the eligible costs while the property owners association or sanitary district covers 25 percent and the county pays the remaining 25 percent. The county's estimated share for the six projects is $433,800.
Projects include Windy Ridge Road and Cedar Crest Lane in Cedarville Heights and Ashby Lane in Talieferro Manor.
Becky Fox, president of the Cedarville Heights property owners association, and her husband Jim have lived in the subdivision for nearly 30 years.
"I haven't heard anything negative from any of the homeowners," Becky Fox said Thursday. "Personally, my husband and I are delighted."
Fox recalled the subdivision put in its name for consideration as roads in the program. But as Fox noted, the homeowners kept the roads in good condition over the years anyway. This opportunity, however, allowed the homeowners to hand over the responsibility and cost of maintaining the roads to VDOT.
The county tries to set aside approximately $250,000 each year in the capital outlay budget to cover the local share of the costs for rural addition projects. Childress pointed out that these projects do not include improvements such as culvert replacements or ditch digging.
In addition to physical improvements to the roads, the rural addition program allows homeowners to pass the burden of maintaining their private roads on to VDOT at 25 percent of the cost to make the improvements, Childress explained.
The county will accept applications postmarked by Sept. 13.
The Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that created the secondary road system and designated VDOT to maintain the highways. The state set guidelines to ensure roads that qualified could become eligible for acceptance into the state system. The process begins with the local boards of supervisors.
For years counties let the developers build subdivisions with roads that did not meet minimum standards for inclusion into the state system. This left the maintenance responsibilities up to the developer or the homeowners. Residents on older rural roads not in subdivisions also maintained their streets.
The Warren County Board of Supervisors adopted a policy in October 2005 that allows the county to share the cost of improving roads to state standards with property owners and VDOT as money comes available.
The county Citizen Road Viewing Committee reviews the list of eligible routes and makes a recommendation to supervisors.
However, the county advised the state's minimum grade requirements limiting the slope of the road to 10 percent eliminates many private roads from qualifying for the program. Eligible roads must have been shown on a plat recorded or opened to public use prior to July 1, 1992, and serves at least three families per mile.
The county's priority list will be determined by the number of homes served by the proposed project and the impact of improving the road on public safety. The list will take into account the terrain, drainage and other environmental factors that could increase the cost of the project.
In order for a private road to be considered for the VDOT Rural Addition/Revenue Sharing Program, the following criteria must be agreed to by the affected property owners/homeowner's association:
- The affected property owners/homeowners association will agree to provide 25 percent of the total project cost at the commencement of the project.
- The affected property owners/homeowner's association must agree to provide a minimum 50-foot unencumbered right-of-way with necessary easements outside of the platted right-of-way for cuts, fills, drainage and utilities at no cost to the county.
- The affected property owners/homeowner's association must agree to pay for the cost of removal or relocation of any utility lines, mail boxes, fences or other improvements at the commencement of the project.
- The affected property owners or homeowner's association must agree to pay for any legal fees and surveying necessary to establish the street right-of-way and any easements. These costs would include any field survey, office work to prepare necessary plats or deeds, and any recordation costs.
Any potential project would have to be connected to an existing state maintained roadway and meet all VDOT access/sight distance requirements.
Anyone interested in participating in the program should contact County Administrator Doug Stanley at (540) 636-4600 or email@example.com.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org