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Durham residents locked with city over who should pay for unfinished neighborhood streets

Posted May 19, 2015

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— Michael Kerkau finds the rough roads in Ravenstone, the Durham neighborhood where he’s lived since 2006, downright embarrassing.

“Last count I’ve had is five vehicles taken out – the oil pans right off the bottom of the car,” Kerkau said.

The roads in Ravenstone and nearby Stone Hill Estates were paved by developers, but asphalt was never put down. The incomplete work has left the roads in deteriorating condition, with potholes, crumbling pavement and exposed manhole covers.

“Our residents are living in a community that has no finished streets,” Kerkau said. “We have been told from the beginning, once construction is completed, there would be streets.”

The problems began in 2008, when the developers went bankrupt and never completed the job. The developers’ insurers took the City of Durham to court, where a judge decided the insurance companies didn't have to pay to fix the roads.

“Now we have to decide how to complete the subdivision,” said Robert Joyner with Durham’s Public Works Department.

Joyner said because the roads were never finished, the city does not own them. His department is proposing a plan that would see the city pay 10 percent of the cost - and each household in the two neighborhoods pay about $5,000 to make the necessary repairs.

Ravenstone Homeowners Association President Ryan Lanci said the solution just doesn't seem right.

“It makes it seem as if we're accountable for the condition of our streets and the way things have not been done,” he said.

Residents propose having a city-wide tax on all homeowners to pay for the repairs. They estimate it would cost about $11 per household.

“The city has by their actions demonstrated that they are aware that they mishandled the situation,” Lanci said. “We are simply asking for them to admit their mistake. Take accountability and make it right in a more appropriate fashion than penalizing us.”

Residents also say they have been paying city taxes for years for services they haven't received, including street sweeping and snow plowing.

Durham City Council will discuss the matter during a work session Thursday.

8 Comments

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  • Aanritsen Deur May 20, 2015
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    That would only work if it's a company with publically held stock. Many "developers" aren't but are either PCs, LLCs or family owned. Then once bankruptcy is declared, there is no more money to get from the entity.

  • Aanritsen Deur May 20, 2015
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    Why should any other property owner in Durham pay for the roads in this one development? IMO, the judge decided incorrectly. Since the developer went bankrupt before finishing the property entirely, either their insurance company is liable for completing it or else the homeowners there are. That's their cost for doing business with a developer with shallow pockets.

  • Dona Hill May 20, 2015
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    Paul Jones, no this is not how it works. There can be streets in a neighborhood that will always be private but one that connects to it will be public. I am not sure though what procedures that people go through to get the city, county, or state to accept their street but it is regulated. I have property in New Hanover that is on streets that have never been paved but the City had it in its budget to pave them in 2006. No asphalt yet and the money just disappeared from the street budget. it is a real political world out there.

  • Dona Hill May 20, 2015
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    What really needs to be done in my opinion is that our state legislature needs to get involved to make laws to prevent the what ifs when this happens. Also I am probably going to get egged for this remark but as a future homeowner in a neighborhood, it is your responsibility to research and decide if you want to take the risk to buy in a neighborhood that is being built by a particular developer. Also it is the responsibility to read all of the HOA covenants and by-laws and ask yourself if you can live with the rules and restrictions that are going to be put on you.

  • Brian Hill May 20, 2015
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    Another reason to eliminate the statist concept of incorporation.

    Bring in the shareholders and owners of the developer and make them pay. They made a commitment and they are obligated ethically and morally to follow through on it.

  • Chris VanderHaven May 20, 2015
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    Yep. We had the same issue in our neighborhood. The builder went bankrupt, and the roads went unfinished for several years. Finally, when the economic downturn ended, other developers came in and finished the last few remaining homesites, and then the county came in and paved. The county simply refuses to pave as long as there isn't a certain percentage of homes complete.

  • Jenna Moore May 20, 2015
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    The city agreed to let these developers come in and build. The city is responsible for this catastrophe. You cannot charge every household $5,000 to fix the roads. Most of these people could not possibly afford it. How convenient it is that we pay city taxes despite not receiving most city services. Take your $5k out of the last 13 years of taxes we paid for nothing.

  • Paul Jones May 20, 2015
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    This is comical. Somebody owns the roads. If the city doesn't own them, the county does. If the county doesn't, the state does. If the state doesn't, then I'd say we have a public motor speedway. You can't enforce speed limits if the street isn't owned by the government. Oh, and Joe Citizen could claim rights and put up a toll booth.

    Durham, there yours. Deal with them.