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County mulls subdivision regulations

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By Calen McKinney

Taylor County residents who own property outside the City limits might soon have a few regulations to follow when dividing and selling their land.

Magistrates will discuss the adoption of County subdivision regulations at the next Fiscal Court meeting.

The discussion stems from several months of debate on the cost and maintenance of gravel roads.

Magistrates voted 4-2 at the last Fiscal Court meeting to no longer accept gravel roads into the County road system.

At that meeting, magistrate Ed Gorin told the Court that its Transportation Committee made up of himself, Magistrate Milford Lowe and County Road Foreman Brian Smothers met Oct. 15 with Taylor County Judge/Executive Eddie Rogers and County Attorney Craig Cox to discuss the issue.

Gorin presented a recommendation from the Committee that the Court begin requiring that all roads accepted into the County road system be blacktopped, have a good base and a 40- to 50-foot right of way, be at least 18 feet wide and be home to at least three landowners. If the road is not blacktopped, but meets all other requirements, Gorin told magistrates, a cash bond may be posted toward the cost of blacktopping the road.

Magistrates James Jones, Lowe, Gorin and Marshall Caulk all voted yes to approve the Committees recommendation. Magistrate John Gaines who initially voted yes and Magistrate Richard Phillips voted no.

Before voting on the issue, however, County Attorney Craig Cox told the Court that several surrounding counties have adopted regulations that require all subdivisions be approved before they are built. He said this would ensure that all subdivisions are up to par before any property is divided and sold.

He said this provision is similar to what the City of Campbellsville requires for those building new subdivisions within the City limits.

At that meeting, Jones said he would like the Transportation Committee to research subdivision regulations. The Committee met Monday to do just that.

On Monday night, Cox told Rogers, Gorin, Lowe and Smothers that subdivision regulations are simply a policy issue that has stemmed from the Courts discussion of gravel roads.

Cox asked how many gravel roads still exist in the County, and how many of those roads are not currently in the County road system. Rogers said there are currently more than 30 miles of gravel roads in the County, much more than during his first term as Taylor Countys judge/executive. He said that figure does not count roads not in the County road system.

Cox said completing the paperwork that goes along with the magistrates approval of the Committees recommendation is fairly simple, but the bigger question remaining is whether the Court wants to add some types of regulations on the process of dividing land.

He said most cities have some type of subdivision and zoning regulations. Subdivision regulations, he said, regulate the process of dividing and selling land while zoning regulations refer to the use of land.

Cox told Committee members about current subdivision regulations in LaRue and Washington counties. He said those regulations may be more strict than what magistrates want to implement in Taylor County, but do give control over how residents divide and sell property.

He said the ordinances provide regulations for those dividing their land into three or more lots with the addition of a new street. He said the ordinances also include different regulations for those who divide their land into only one or two lots and dont include the addition of a new street.

Cox said magistrates will want to consider how detailed subdivisions should be spelled out in the ordinance, and whether or not they want to add regulations for when a new street is built inside a subdivision.

He said most subdivision regulation ordinances call for the formation of a board to review and approve subdivision proposals.

Cox said a developer would be required to present some sort of preliminary plat for the board to review and approve. He said the developer could then begin working on the subdivision and, when the work is completed, present a final plat to the board for its final approval. This approval, he said, would ensure that the developer did what was required to build the subdivision correctly.

After final approval is granted, Cox said, a developer may then divide and sell lots in the subdivision.

Cox said some ordinances specify several classifications and dimensions to build streets within the subdivisions and include a provision that states residents will receive notice of when construction will be done in the subdivision.

Some ordinances require that developers post a letter of credit when building a new road, Cox said, in the amount of 1.25 times the estimated cost to build the street. If a developer fails to build the street, Cox said, the County could simply take that letter to a bank and receive the money to finish the road.

He said the letter then essentially becomes a loan from a bank to the developer.

Rogers said subdivision regulations protect the developer and the person buying the property. He said the regulations would protect buyers from developers that promise the County will build a road in their subdivision, when the County will actually not be building a road.

Cox said some subdivision regulation ordinances include provisions for agricultural divisions of land that may allow the construction of gravel roads for agricultural purposes.

Some ordinances, Cox said, may include hardship clauses that exempt property owners from the regulations when they cause a hardship. Cox and Smothers later said they both believe that type of regulation should not be included in Taylor Countys subdivision regulations.

Overall, Cox said, all subdivision regulation ordinances he has reviewed require that a board approve all subdivisions before land can be divided and sold. He said this requirement wouldnt likely be a burden to local developers because they generally do all of the things that would be required in such an ordinance.

Cox said the ordinance would simply be a way to ensure that the roads built in the County are done so properly and provide a process for a construction of a subdivision.

If regulations were approved, Cox said, and land was divided without going through the process spelled out in the ordinance, the transfer would be considered illegal and voided.

If the Court approves subdivision regulations, Cox said, the County could have much better roads in the next five years.

Gorin agreed and said he has only two gravel roads in his district. Lowe said he didnt know of any gravel roads in his district.

Lowe asked Cox if he could draft a subdivision ordinance for the magistrates to consider at the next Court meeting.

On Tuesday, Cox said to change the standards for accepting a road into the County road system will only require that magistrates adopt an ordinance amending the current standards.

However, Cox said, based on Mondays meeting, he will present a sample subdivision regulations ordinance to magistrates at the next Fiscal Court meeting.

If magistrates want to consider adopting subdivision regulations, Cox said, he will recommended they include the new County road standards and subdivision regulations in the same ordinance.

The next Court meeting will be Tuesday, Dec. 18 at 6 p.m. at the Taylor County Courthouse.

The meeting was originally scheduled for Dec. 11 but was rescheduled in recognition of the inauguration of Gov. Steve Beshear.

- Staff Writer Calen McKinney can be reached at 465-8111 Ext. 235 or by e-mail at reporter@cknj.com.