How To Settle Private Road Repair Funding Disputes Without Losing Your Cool
Whether you and your neighbors share a long gravel driveway or an entire system of interconnected paved roads, it can be downright impossible to get every property owner in agreement over road repairs. Some simply don't want to pay for maintenance and repair costs, while others disagree just to get back at each other for past conflicts. Make your shared private roads safe and easy to use again with one of these four methods for settling disputes about repair fees.
Add the Costs to Homeowner's Association Dues
Start by considering what structures you and your neighbors already have in place for managing these kinds of disagreements. If you live in a subdivision or gated community with a homeowner's association, consider using the money saved up from years of dues to fund the repairs instead of trying to get everyone to chip in. The association's board of directors can decide which repairs will work best, find and hire a contractor, and field complaints from any community member who is unhappy with the repairs.
Is there no fund to draw from because of other expenditures or a lack of payments from homeowners? Use this opportunity to reestablish a working and responsible association for neighborhood maintenance. You may have to spend a year or two reorganizing the board and collecting past due fees, but in the end it'll pay off because your next private road repair project will go much smoother.
Apply for Grants
Don't expect the county or state government to foot the bill for your road repairs since private drives are almost always the responsibility of the land owners that rely on the roadways. There are a few limited grants available for damaged private roads in need of repair, including
- Money from FEMA if a natural disaster damages your private road so badly you can no longer reach your home
- Small grants from your local township or county that are potentially available if you set up an independent association with your neighbors
- Erosion control grants to limit sediment coming off your dirt road and into local bodies of water, which usually only cover materials and not labor costs.
You'll need a grant writer for some opportunities, which means a payment for that writer must come out of someone's pocket. Don't hold out for a grant and fail to plan for an alternative fund raising effort if your requests are all denied.
Set Up a Special Assessment District
When your fellow land owners are so stubborn about the road repairs that they try to block your efforts outright, you may need to turn to your local government for a little assistance in asserting your right to perform maintenance. The county department of transportation can't come out to do the repairs for you, but if you set up an arrangement known as a Special Assessment District (SAD), the local government will collect fees in the form of taxes from all the private road users and use the money to pay for repairs.
Keep in mind you don't get to choose the contractor or type of repair with this method. Also, not all counties and towns offer this kind of system for assisting with private road maintenance.
Meet Public Standards
Finally, you may decide to pay for one final round of upgrades and then try to hand the road over to the city for public use and maintenance. This can work, but you will need to meet a long list of regulations set by the city or state in order for the government to agree to add your road to the public system. Also, this plan rarely works for any short and dead-end drives because they don't really offer much use to the rest of the drivers on the road. It's worth a try if your road constantly needs repairs and your neighbors agree to pay their part towards bringing the roadway up to current public standards.
Check out sites like http://bitroads.com for more information on roadway repairs.