Tag Archives: rural issues

Verifying Fire Protection District Coverage and Sufficient Driveway Access to Your Property

This is part 3 of an installment series discussing public roads not maintained by the county. Though it is in reference to maintenance of roads, two issues discussed are important to everyone living on rural properties: verifying you are located within a fire protection district, and making sure that there aren’t issues with your driveway for the fire trucks to get in should a fire occur. See this post should you be interested in reading through the whole maintenance road issue.

Did you know that not all property located within the State of Oregon is located within a fire protection district? As far as I know, the majority of property located in or near cities does fall within a fire protection district, but there are many rural areas that do not. This is something that you should always pay attention to when purchasing a new piece of real estate.

I stopped into my local Fire Department today to ask them some various questions I had been pilling up. One of them included figuring out how to tell whether or not a property is located within a fire protection district. I asked the firemen that were present how a potential buyer for a property figures out whether or not their property is protected.  I asked them if this was easy to determine on the county website and whether or not it was accurate? They recommended that buyers simply stop into the most local fire station and ask them directly.

Locally, they said that they aren’t aware of any property around here that is not located within a fire protection zone. But – and this is a big but – private timber properties, and the like, are not protected by the local fire station. The responsibility lies with the landowner. In Beavercreek, we have lots of timber property, including land publicly owned by the BLM. They said that of course if there was a fire located on BLM and the like, they would be there responding, evacuating neighbors and whatnot, and that it is likely that several jurisdictions would be involved. We didn’t get into what the process would actually look like should a fire occur, but i got the sense that the response to fire on timber property would be significantly different than on private property. Those of us living close to timber areas should probably pay close attention here.

Next I moved on to my questions about public roads not maintained by the county, and whether or not the fire department has rules regarding how the roads are maintained. The firemen there seemed unfamiliar with this issue – and said that I should place more pressure on the county to maintain our roads better. They were genuinely puzzled in learning that the county does not maintain a lot of “public” roads, and that the responsibility lies with the nearby property owners.

They said as far as they know they do not have jurisdiction in requiring any sort of road standards. But  said that they do often have trouble with access in some “private” driveways (my guess, based on their response above, is that many of these are actually public roads), and that they have to bring in the hose really long stretches in order to reach a fire because they cannot get their trucks close enough to the homes. I got the impression that they would do everything that they can, but access issues are likely to slow down the response.

They said sometimes the fire marshall will catch wind of hazardous access points, issuing notification to homeowners that there is access issues with their properties. I mentioned that our area would like to put a new road agreement in place, and that it would be wonderful if the fire marshall could give our area a look, to verify that there aren’t any access issues (especially since BLM land is directly behind my house). We’d like to know that information prior to putting a new agreement in place.

They told me to call the main telephone number for “fire prevention” on the fire department website, and that the fire marshall will have more information.  I will report back when I find out more.

Installment 4 is located here.

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.