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Muddy road winds through commission again
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Rainwater pools Tuesday in potholes and ruts on Beulah Road. Residents say the road is impassable with a low-riding vehicle for weeks after rain. - photo by Danielle Hipps

Residents in a coastal subdivision who have repeatedly asked the Liberty County Commission to help with their unkempt road made another plea last week.

“I can tell you, the conditions are drastically worse than what they were last year,” Ronda Durney said. “There are literally huge pits. Even when it’s dry you can hardly make it down the road. When it is wet, there were big potholes last year, now there are literally ponds — after it is wet, you have to wait weeks, not days, for it to dry out.”

On Tuesday, several large puddles and ruts collected water in the dirt between the yards.

A pickup crawled through the 26-lot subdivision, which is off Islands Highway just east of Fort Morris Road. In one area the truck bounced up and down.

For Durney and neighbors from four homes who attended the commission meeting, the lack of road maintenance is a longstanding problem in the subdivision developed by Bobby Collins and A.G. Wells.

Durney has a copy of the property owner association covenants on file with the Liberty County Clerk of the Courts Office, and the POA is supposed to be collecting dues and maintaining the road.

But such a legal body was never established. Last year when Durney and her neighbors requested help from the county, they were advised to get all neighbors together to create a POA.

“There’s been some difficulties with the process of trying to get neighbors to sign up … A lot of the people do not understand the issue,” Durney said.

Citing safety concerns, she asked the board to consider finding a solution without 100 percent participation.

“The gentleman across from me had one of the widow-maker heart attacks, and I can honestly tell you, if it happened a day later, I do not know how that ambulance would have gotten to his home,” Durney said.

Commission Chairman John McIver reiterated the county’s stance that the matter is a civil issue between the homeowners and the developers.

“We’re going to have to have all the easement, you know, everybody sign off and say that we can come in and possibly do some — I would call it temporary maintenance — but the road at this point is not up to county standards …,” McIver said. “Right now we can’t even do some temporary maintenance on that road because it is not our road.”

Durney said she has done 27 records searches to get to find out who owns the property, how the POA was never formed and how the breach of development codes was allowed to get by.

“It’s been sheer hell trying to find stuff,” Durney said.

Commission meeting minutes indicate the plats were approved in a split vote on July 7, 1999. But the approval included special exemptions such as the temporary waiver of drainage improvements and acceptance of a bond for such improvements.

Commissioner Marion Stevens Sr., whose district includes the subdivision, moved to deny the request for exemption, but the vote died. District 4 Commissioner Pat Bowen moved to accept the exemption and that vote carried four to three.

Following the 1999 vote, the minutes indicate that the board heard comments from Laura Devendorff, Otis Amason and Clyde Poppell concerning the board’s approval of the action, though the nature of the comments is not recorded.

Durney asserts that the county did not uphold its duty to secure the public welfare when they approved the plat with exemptions.
“I personally believe that this was not properly designated as a private road. First of all, because there is no road. And second of all, I don’t think that everything was complied with,” Durney said.

On June 21, County Attorney Kelly Davis suggested the residents engage an attorney to determine who owns the property and how they could move forward.

“Basically, what we are doing is trying to fight city hall, and the problem is we are not rich folks out here… We don’t have the money to hire an attorney and things, and that is a major issue,” Durney said.

When asked what she will do if the matter does not move forward without county help, Durney said if she has to, she’ll go to state representatives.

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