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FMPC tables road request

A Farragut subdivision’s request for a gate at its entrance led to a lengthy conversation on the privatization of subdivision roads and no decision at a Farragut Municipal Planning Commission meeting Thursday, Aug. 18.

The Cove at Turkey Creek homeowners association first approached FMPC about a gate last spring, and returned Thursday night hoping for a decision. After hours of discussion, Commission voted to table the item until more research could be done.

Installing a gate at a subdivision entrance changes the roads from public to private, community development director Ruth Hawk pointed out. While the Town has allowed private subdivision roads in the past, it doesn’t anymore, following a wave of subdivisions 10 years ago that wanted to return their roads to a public classification because of high maintenance costs.

Commissioner Ed St. Clair made note that a decision to allow private streets wouldn’t just affect The Cove, but would affect all subdivisions in the Town.

“And does the Town want to be a town of gated communities?” he asked.

“We’d like to go forward with the request,” said Jim Nixon, developer of the subdivision and spokesman for the homeowners association.

According to Nixon, The Cove at Turkey Creek had a unique security problem, since the subdivision entrance opens onto bustling Parkside Drive. In addition, the subdivision is only partially built out. Of the 74 lots, Nixon said he and Turkey Creek Land Partners principal John Turley still owned more than 40.

There are only 15 occupied homes in the subdivision.

“Security is why we’d like to have a gate and private streets,” Nixon said.

Commissioner Noah Myers said he would have to see 100 percent homeowner support before allowing a subdivision to make streets private.

Dr. Emese Suranyi, a homeowner in the subdivision, expressed her desire that the streets remain public.

“I just never bought into paying for the roads. I never did,” she said.

Mayor Ralph McGill pointed out that if the subdivision’s streets were private, the Town would no longer repave the roads, maintain streetlights, plow snow or maintain drainage systems. And privatizing the roads could cause an issue with public walking trails and sidewalks, he added.

“We understand that we will be responsible for all these streets,” Nixon said.

He and subdivision resident Robert Lundgren said the initial cost of the gate was estimated to be $75,000 and the homeowners would be placing between $18,000 to $19,000 a year in escrow for road maintenance.

The gates would remain open during the day, Nixon said, but would be closed at night.

“We have an inordinate number of people in our subdivision who should not be there,” he said.

McGill also pointed out that if the subdivision later decided it no longer wanted private streets, the Town would not accept the streets until they were brought into compliance with Town standards.

Commissioner Betty Dick said future buyers in the subdivision also would need to be aware — before the closing paperwork was introduced — that the streets were private and that they would be financially responsible for routine maintenance and for repairs if a disaster occurred.

“The disclosure issue is a major issue,” Commissioner Noah Myers agreed.

Suranyi and her husband also pointed out legal pitfalls that could affect the Town if a person were injured on a public walking trail in the subdivision but couldn’t be accessed by emergency personnel because of the subdivision gate.

Alderman Ron Honken asked that more research into legal options regarding private versus public roads be done, as well as other options for security in the subdivision.

McGill agreed.

“I’m not ready to vote tonight. I need more information,” he said.

Honken moved to table the agenda item to allow for more research; McGill seconded and the motion was unanimously approved.


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