Boyle reluctant to accept new Hunt Farm road

Published 5:14 pm Wednesday, January 29, 2020

A Boyle County developer has completed construction of a new road that could have as many as 15 new homes built along it. Now, he wants the county to take over maintenance of the road — but the county has a long-standing ordinance that prohibits accepting the road until at least 51% of the homes are built.

Planning and Zoning Director Steve Hunter told Boyle magistrates Tuesday he believes the county’s ordinance conflicts with state law. He encouraged them to change it or find some way around it.

“We’ve got to do something with that old ordinance right now,” Hunter said. “Either you need to do a housekeeping fix on it, or maybe you just need to ignore it in this case. It’s just odd that you would have a standard like that.”

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But county officials said they believe their 51% rule is also based on state law, or at least was when it was created; they asked County Attorney Chris Herron to look into the law and come back with more information.

The developer, Joedy Sharpe, is adding a new section to the Hunt Farm subdivision, just off of Ky. 33 in northern Boyle County. The subdivision has had its share of controversy.

Construction of the three initial phases in the subdivision began more than a decade ago, but the Great Recession that began in 2008 brought home-building in Boyle County grinding to a halt.

For years, the subdivision’s roads were left without final surface and sidewalks promised in the subdivision’s plans were not built. After negotiations with the P&Z Commission that turned contentious at times, Sharpe agreed to finish paving the roads and build some of the sidewalks from the original plan, in order to clear away a letter of credit the P&Z Commission was holding and to allow for P&Z approval of future development. That work today is essentially complete and Sharpe has built the road for phase four of his development with approval from P&Z.

There are no homes built on the new road yet, but Hunter said Tuesday that shouldn’t stop Boyle County from accepting the road — meaning it would be responsible for fixing damage and clearing snow in the future.

State law requires Boyle County to accept all roads built to local P&Z standards within 45 days, Hunter claimed. He said he doesn’t know where the county’s 51% developed rule came from but be thinks it “runs 100% afoul of state law.”

But county officials took issue with Hunter’s suggestion that their 51% developed rule was arbitrary or strange.

County Engineer Duane Campbell said the 51% threshold was based on state law when it was written. Long-time Treasurer Mary Conley, who was working for Boyle County when the current ordinance was put in place in 2002, backed Campbell up.

“We had qualified people making laws back then and,” Conley said. “I don’t want to make it sound like we just make things up as we go.”

Hunter and some magistrates also had different views about the usefulness of the 51% occupied rule.

Magistrates said if the county accepts responsibility for a road before most of the homes are built along it, it increases the county’s risk of having to repair a road torn up by construction equipment or large trucks as new homes are built.

“I understand why the developer is so excited about having the county take this over,” Magistrate Phil Sammons said, alleging that concrete trucks traveling to construction sites could easily tear up the roadway.

Hunter said roads aren’t torn up by construction vehicles as often as people seem to think; and many construction vehicles will do no damage to a road if driven properly. What can tear up a road is a heavy vehicle driving over a curb or someone driving a bulldozer down a paved road, for example, he said.

The point is it comes down to how drivers on the road behave and what standards the road is built to, not so much that construction is occurring, Hunter said.

Hunter noted that P&Z now requires developers to provide a one-year warranty period on new roads, which provides some protection to the county. And he suggested the county could look at increasing its standards to make the minimum road quality higher, making it less likely heavy vehicles would cause damage.

Magistrate Jason Cullen said he is on-board with the county taking a look at state law to check whether its ordinance is legal or not; but he wouldn’t want to jump the gun on changing long-standing policy specifically for Hunt Farm, due to that subdivision’s history of problems.

“There’s a history in that development and I’ve got a lot of people that spent a lot of money buying a house in there, trying to come home at the end of the day and it’s not fun for them all the time,” he said.

Cullen said there have been issues with power outages in the neighborhood, in addition to problems with the roads; Hunter noted the P&Z Commission and the county ordinance only address roads, not other problems.

“I’m sorry I don’t take everything that is said at face value,” Cullen told Hunter. “I’m going to be a little strict on this one. I understand what you’re saying, but there’s history there.”

Magistrates expect to address the issue again when Herron returns with more information about what state law requires.