Road maintenance at issue in Wake subdivision
Posted February 17, 2009 5:19 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT
Wendell, N.C. — It was Guy Darr's dream home – a two-car garage, covered porch and a finished second floor – in the Meadow Glen subdivision outside Wendell.
"We looked at it and said, 'This is going to be our one and only house,’" Darr said.
Four years later, though, he's encountered a problem that has nothing to do with the house. It’s cracking and crumbling of the roads throughout the development.
Darr says he is frustrated more isn't being done to fix them.
"I thought the roads automatically belong to the state or the county," Darr said.
The Department of Transportation does maintain roads in neighborhoods, like Meadow Glen, but Reid Elmore, a DOT district engineer, says developers are responsible for maintaining roads until they meet certain DOT standards. Once they do, the state takes over.
"For whatever reason, the developer has not addressed the items we pointed out, and until such time, my hands are tied, as far as acceptance of this subdivision," Elmore said.
Elmore says the roads in Meadow Glen need extensive work that Wake County officials estimate would cost more than $100,000.
Since 1999, the subdivision's road issues have grown from eight to 17 and range from repaving to drainage issues.
Developers AdamsMark Properties and RHC Construction and Realty say that when they bought the land for the development, DOT informed them of two issues that needed to be fixed.
"We completed those items and requested the road be taken over, but were told that 75 percent of homes had to be occupied," developers Robert Cameron and Todd Adams said in written statement to WRAL News.
Adams and Cameron said that each time they addressed issues, more arose, including ones that cannot be fixed.
They say they have maintained the roads, as agreed upon, and that DOT "has no interest in taking over secondary roads and does everything they can to prevent taking them."
"Because of this, we have been sitting in limbo with great financial hardship for five years," they said in their statement.
Elmore says the DOT has no record of any response from AdamsMark or RHC. Either way, the department has a warning for potential homebuyers.
"I won't say this happens every day, but there are other subdivisions that are in the same position this one is in," Elmore said, "and the homeowners are pretty much left holding the bag on this."
Developers do have an incentive in Wake County to maintain roads within a subdivision. If DOT standards are not met, the county is supposed to withhold building permits for 25 percent of the lots.
"This is, in effect, an example of a safeguard," said Steven Finn, land development administrator with the Wake County Planning Department.
In Meadow Glen, six lots remain undeveloped, but residents believe the cost to the developers to fix the issues to meet DOT standards is more than they would make by building on empty lots.
The developers, instead, built on lots in different subdivisions in Raleigh, Zebulon and other areas in Wake County.
At this point, Finn says, there's nothing the county or the state can do to require the developers to get the Meadow Glen roads up to DOT standards.
"It kind of blows my mind," said James Gibson with the Meadow Glen Homeowners Association. "I'm not picking on the county, but you're issuing permits to (the developers) in another subdivision, but you put him on hold in this one?"
Finn says the safeguards, to some extent, worked in the case of Meadow Glen but admits there is room for improvement.
In 2006, Wake County updated its policy for new subdivisions to require that the developer put up a letter of credit for anywhere from $15,000 to $20,000.
None of that seems to be helping Meadow Glen residents, though, and they say they fear the issue might eventually lead to court.
"In the meantime, we're stuck with (these roads)," Gibson said. "Six more years – it may be gravel road."