On Public Roads Not Maintained by the County

This is the beginning of an installment series about issues relating to maintenance of smaller roads that are public but not maintained in Clackamas County. From speaking with multiple property owners in the area, I’ve learned that the issue is pervasive and many people are at a loss as to how to handle funding and maintaining their roads.  Since this is such a big issue in our area, I thought i would share my experiences in case it helps anyone else resolve some of their issues as well.

I live in rural Clackamas county in a little “Hamlet” called Beavercreek. Our small “neighborhood” consists of smaller acreage parcels (as small as 2.5) up to 30 acres, along with a few properties that are solely tree farms and consist of roughly 100 acres. We access our property via a gravel/dirt road, and for the 9 years that I’ve been living here it seems that almost everyone is confused about how the road maintenance is implemented. At one time, even I was confused!

I believe that I was confused because I don’t recall seeing our Road Agreement when we purchased the property. I recall being told we just pay into a fund every year, and for some reason I thought we had a Homeowner’s Association, and that it was collected in an escrow account (meaning, I wouldn’t have cut a check myself). Then, six years after I purchased the property, I got a bill for the last six years, which was a bit of a shocker. I had never seen a bill before! Since that time, I’ve attempted to investigate whether or not I saw the Road Agreement when I bought the property. The title company that closed the transaction was unable to find it, and the title company I regularly choose for my current transactions was also unable to locate it. When I physically went down to the county, they pulled up the Road Agreement right away, and were baffled as to why it wouldn’t have come up.

In addition, when the home across the road from me was sold, I contacted both agents involved in the transaction to make them aware of the agreement. Neither of them had even heard of it before. Speaking with those who bought it afterward, it seems that they still did not see the Road Agreement even after I notified both agents via email that an agreement exists. Another of my neighbors who bought recently swears that she also never got a copy of the road agreement. I know her well, and know that she would have reviewed the document carefully had it come across her. It is very clear to me now that something isn’t happening correctly, at least in our area, on the title end of the transaction when people are purchasing.

At any rate, our road is degrading to a point that there is hardly any rock in certain areas. There are ditches, ruts, potholes galore. One of my neighbors recently obtained a home equity line of credit on her home, and said that the appraiser who came out gave her a hard time about the condition of the road. And, word on the street is that the road condition has gotten so bad in the past that people would literally get stuck in the mud, and had to be towed out. Needless to say, the value of our real estate is in jeopardy.

The last time our gravel road had any significant rock put in place was about 7 years ago. I was surprised to learn just recently that it wasn’t our neighborhood that put the rock down – but the Bureau of Land Management when they logged one of the timber properties in our area. Had the BLM not put down significant rock, I’m afraid our road would be in extremely bad condition today.

At this point you’re likely asking yourselves why we have not put down more gravel. Sadly, it isn’t so simple. Evidently, it is very hard to find contractors who will work on what is considered a “small” area for a reasonable fee. The contractors that they’ve found in the past were local friends, who offered the work at a discounted rate. Our most recent person has passed away. Further complicating matters, we have a significant amount of homeowners who are unable or unwilling to pay their share of the road dues, which, up until recently, were only $100/year.

The lowest of the most recent bids is about 1/4 higher than the money that our little community has in the bank from receiving the minimal road dues over the years. And this is after at least 10 years of saving what road dues that we could. We may have enough to have the road rocked and graded soon, but there is nowhere near enough money coming in to cover the road maintenance that should be done on an annual basis.

We recently (finally!) had a road meeting in which a large percentage of homeowners could attend. It was decided that something needs to be done about the homeowners who have not paid, and unanimously decided that our road dues need to increase significantly.

Now that we’ve decided what needs to be done with at least those who were present in agreement, someone has to step up to the plate about enforcing road dues.

Our tasks are: figure out how to collect on past dues, and how to implement stronger methods of getting road dues paid in the future as we are wondering if our most current road agreement (recorded in 1970’s) is sufficient.

Some of the methods we will need to look into: small claims court, a simple lien on properties, forming a Local Improvement District, implementing a Special District, or retroactively forming a Homeowner’s Association.

My next post in the installment regarding inquiries to the county is located here.

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