Hometown News For Orange County, Texas

Subdivision residents find themselves having to pay for roads

The roads are so bad in the Battlin' Bear subdivision, that the residents are ready to pay $3,500 per lot to fix them. And their problem raises some issues that could face Orange County as the influx of huge construction projects brings more housing developments.

Builders and developers must get their roads to local code standards for the county to assume permanent maintenance and repairs. Plus, buyers need to make certain the subdivisions do not have cheap, substandard roads.

Orange County Commissioners Court held a public hearing Tuesday to set a special election for the Battlin' Bear property owners to vote on whether they want to be assessed the costs of materials for the county rebuild the roads.

The subdivision is in the Little Cypress area off FM 1078 south of FM 1130. It is within Commissioner Johnny Trahan's Precinct 1 and he has been working with the residents since he took office.

He said the first house was built in 2009. The subdivision is within the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the city of Orange. He said the city was supposed to inspect the roads to make sure they meet standards.

The county maintains many miles of rural roads, but for new developments, the roads must meet certain standards for the county to legally accept the ownership and maintenance.

Trahan said the Battlin' Bear developer never met those standards and his bond, or insurance on the job, expired before any officials inspected the roadways.

Right now, the property owners own the roads and the adjacent drainage ditches.

Trahan said he has been working with the Texas Association of Counties legal department on the issue. The roads also fall within the Texas Transportation Act and procedures set up for maintenance. In addition, Assistant County Attorney Denise Gremillion has been researching the legalities of the county maintaining the roads.

The county has determined the costs of materials to rebuild the roads will be $3,506 per lot. If a homeowner has two lots, they were be assessed that amount for each lot. Trahan said property owners could pay the costs over five years, for a yearly payment of about $700 per lot.

When a woman asked if they could pay it all at once, Trahan said that could be arranged.

The county will provide the equipment and manpower for the job. County Engineer Corey Oldbury said those costs could have doubled the charge for the property owners.

County Judge John Gothia told about 20 property owners gathered at the public hearing "this is absolutely your deal." A show of hands showed most support the proposal and they want an election.

The county will have 10 days to send the property owners ballots. They will return them to show they support or oppose the project. Gothia said the ballots must total 50 percent plus 1 vote of the total received. All property owners will be assessed the fees whether or not they vote for the county to rebuild the roads.

Envelopes with the ballots will be opened by the county clerk and tabulated by the county clerk and then presented to Commissioners Court for public review.

When someone asked about the responsibility of the developer, Trahan said "that's a civil matter. You can contact your own attorney and decide what to do."

He said the county has been working to help them with their road problems. The state-required election and fee process "is the best way we can do this."


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