Rural subdivision setting of road maintenance dispute
by Brian Anderson
Sep 02, 2013 | 3871 views |  0 comments | 34 34 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A street in the Barrington Farms subdivision of Alexandria. Photo by Stephen Gross.
A street in the Barrington Farms subdivision of Alexandria. Photo by Stephen Gross.
ALEXANDRIA — Kenneth Page said the deteriorating asphalt near his home on Barrington Circle represents broken promises.

Page said that since he moved to Barrington Farms off Alabama 144 more than seven years ago, Calhoun County has done nothing to maintain or repave the thin layer of asphalt on the streets in the Alexandria subdivision.

“They aren’t doing what they said they’d do,” Page said. “When I went and talked to them they told me they’d sort it out in a few days. Well that was nine months ago, and I haven’t heard from them since.”

But according to Calhoun County Engineer Brian Rosenbalm, the county isn’t responsible for road maintenance in Barrington Farms, or any other subdivision, until a developer has finished the project, and the county agrees to take care of the roads.

Subdivisions are residential areas built by developers on previously empty lots. Rosenbalm said developers work with county officials to come up with plans that meet county requirements. Most crucial, Rosenbalm said, are road requirements, which need to include two inches of binder asphalt, and a one-inch sealing level to make sure the roads are sturdy enough for travel.

“When we look at the subdivision, and they’ve met all the minimum requirements, we accept the road,” Rosenbalm said. “It then gets maintained by the county.”

That’s the ideal circumstance anyway, and one that most of Calhoun County’s subdivisions have met over the years. Problems mostly come from subdivisions where the road hasn’t been finished. In the case of Barrington Farms — the subdivision that Rosenbalm said has generated the most complaints from residents over the years — the one-inch asphalt seal was never placed on Barrington Circle.

Barrington Farms’ developer, Sam Almaroad, said that’s because the subdivision isn’t finished, and only when a fourth and final phase expanding Barrington Circle is completed will the road be finished.

“I don’t cut corners,” Almaroad said. “You can drive out there and see for yourself. That road is built strong. It’s not going anywhere.”

Almaroad, who’s developed several subdivisions in the county, including Eagle’s Landing in Jacksonville and Forest Ridge Estates in Pleasant Valley, said it’s news to him some residents have complained about conditions in Barrington Farms. While he plans to finish sealing the road, right now, the economy is restricting his development business.

“I’d love to tell you we’d start next week if I knew those lots would sell,” Almaroad said. “The housing market isn’t in a recession, it’s a depression.”

Almaroad said that when he completes the final phase of Barrington Farms, he’ll finish the road, and Rosenbalm said at that point the county will accept the road for maintenance.

But if a developer has no intention of completing an unfinished subdivision? Things get even more complicated.

Rosenbalm said one subdivision in Calhoun County fits that bill. The developers of Shady Glen in Wellborn went bankrupt before the road was accepted by the county for maintenance. Road Department employee Van Hollingsworth said Shady Glen Road is in “perfect condition,” but that doesn’t mean a few years down the road the asphalt won’t deteriorate. And how the county would handle complaints from those residents isn’t clear.

“I don’t know what we’ll do then,” Rosenbalm said. “We’ll have to put some type of policy in place.”

For now, there’s nothing the county can do about roads they don’t own.

“We can’t take care of it,” said Calhoun County Commissioner J.D. Hess. “By law, we can’t do anything about it.”

But Kenneth Page said he isn’t buying that explanation, and if the county said they’d take care of the road, then that’s what they should do.

“They got to do something about it,” Page said. “Or all of that pavement is just going to rip right off.”

Staff writer Brian Anderson: 256-235-3546. On Twitter @BAnderson_Star.

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