From Bryan Nelson/Orange County Commissioner of District 2
Orange County maintains 2,600 miles of roadways. Because of insufficient dedicated right-of-way, sub-standard cross section, and inadequate drainage, not all public rights of way are maintained. Board policy on open non-maintained and unopened unimproved rights of way has been in place since 2001. This policy led to consistent application of road construction and maintenance throughout the County. It gives clear and concise guidelines for improving these non-maintained roads. There are four basic types of roads: Maintained roads, open non-maintained roads, unopen unimproved rights of way, and residential and commercial private drives.
Maintained roads include arterials, collectors, and local roads as well as their associated traffic control devices, lighting, mowing, drainage systems, and street signs. The $46 million annual cost for this is funded from gas taxes and Municipal Service Benefit Units (MSBUs).
Open non-maintained roads, which account for about 47 miles across the County, are defined as those traveled ways and used on a daily basis to access two or more residential homes. District 2 has 24.4 miles of open, non-maintained roads out of the 47 miles total in the County. The property owners adjacent to the roadway are responsible for the maintenance of it. County policy for open non-maintained roads requires that the residents first agree to pay for surfacing of the roadway. Petitions go out to all property owners; there must be a petition from 67% of owners to move forward. If this condition is met, the County then must move forward with the surfacing process and accept responsibility for future maintenance. In addition, the road must be at least minimum dirt road standards at the cost of the residents.
Orange County has over 170 miles of unopened unimproved rights of way, which are classified as paths that serve as an access to any number of undeveloped lots or parcels. This type of road can be found in various conditions as well. Additionally, the roadway segment will be improved to County paved road standards. The road must be paved from the property access point to the nearest paved road. However, Orange County does not participate in paving the road, where owners of the parcel(s) must pay for all costs including design, permitting, and construction. Furthermore, it is required that there be 100% right of way dedication and residential permitting can occur during road construction.
Private drives can be either residential or commercial (including industrial). Residentially, they can be alleys, gated subdivision streets, or internal condominium roadways, which are paved and maintained by the residents. Because they are private roads, the county does not normally maintain them. Commercially, they can serve multiple property owners, have an internal circulation of traffic, or have no public right of way.
Orange County does not permit new dirt roads due to various concerns with public safety and services, environmental impacts, resident complaints, and high maintenance costs, to name a few. Dirt roads create challenges for public services. County staff are developing a fact sheet for homeowners with unmaintained roads about how to go about upgrading access to their property. This resource will be informative to homeowners so they are aware of the steps to move forward with this process.