By Emily Le Coz/NEMS Daily Journal
Sunny Meadows subdivision residents, who for years begged Lee County to pave their two roads, finally got their wish but had to pay for it themselves.
If it appears the saga is over, though, some residents said they’re still unhappy with how it unfolded.
First let’s rewind to 2002 when developers Dean Webb and Sid Kirksey created the subdivision. They thought they had county assurance it would adopt and maintain Sunny Meadows’ roads as long as at least three residents purchased properties within.
That’s also what the men told prospective homebuyers, who then moved into the community thinking their roads soon would be paved and maintained.
When that didn’t happen, the residents complained to their supervisor, Phil Morgan of District 1, who told them he had never promised such a thing. He further said the developers failed to build the roads according to county specifications.
Kirksey couldn’t be reached for comment, but in a January 2010 story in the Daily Journal, Webb said his roads were just as good as any other the county had recently adopted.
The situation appeared at a standstill; neither side budged.
Fast-forward to November 2010. Blake and Tyler Tatum were building a home in the subdivision when they learned they couldn’t get a mortgage because it sat on a private road. They called Morgan for help, and he told them the county could adopt it if it met specifications.
Morgan further told them about a special tax assessment the county could levy upon the homeowners. The levy would cover the cost of improving the road so the county could adopt it.
“He was so helpful,” Blake Tatum told the Daily Journal. “He’s a really good guy to work with.”
The Tatums just needed signatures from all the homeowners along their street, Pine Tree Drive, to agree to a preliminary study. One hundred percent of the homeowners signed the study agreement, but only 80 percent signed the petition to actually perform the work and accept the tax.
County supervisors approved the second petition in April, and the street was coated in DBST – or double bituminous surface treatment, which is a mixture of rock and tar. As a result, the county accepted the road as its own and will now maintain it.
The 10 residents of Pine Tree Lane – including those who didn’t sign the second petition – each were assessed a tax based on how much of their property fronts the street. The total cost was $6,400.
Among the non-signers was Lee Jones, whose land takes up the most space along the road and therefore incurs the largest tax: $1,400. He said he didn’t even know the county approved the second petition until his aunt, who also lives on the road, told him.
“I wouldn’t have signed the first petition had I known they could have done the second one without my permission,” Jones said. “No one from the county ever even came to talk to us. I feel like it was done behind my back.”
According to Lee County Administrator Sean Thompson, the county requires 100 percent approval from homeowners to draw up plans and get a price estimate of the work. But it needs only 60 percent approval to actually do the work and charge the residents.
Homeowners just one street over, on Sunny Meadows Lane, said they knew nothing about their neighbors’ plans. Had they known, said Alisha Bryant, they might have joined the effort to get their own road fixed.
Instead, four of the five residents on Sunny Meadows Lane pooled their money together and hired their own contractor. Their road was paved with asphalt this week. It cost $8,400.
“I don’t know why Phil Morgan didn’t come to us and say, ‘We’re taking up one street, let’s all get together,'” Bryant said.
Morgan told the Daily Journal he had informed at least one Sunny Meadows Lane homeowner about what the Pine Tree Lane residents were doing. He said they apparently didn’t pass along that knowledge to their neighbors.
It’s unclear now whether the county will adopt Sunny Meadows Lane for permanent maintenance. Morgan said the homeowners should have notified him first to make sure the work met specifications.
“They can do what they want; it’s a private road,” he said. “But I’m not sure we’ll take it now.”
Bryant said she’s not sure she wants the county to take it, but her husband, Anthony, said it’d be nice if it did.
“If anything,” Anthony Bryant said, “this has taught us that there needs to be more communication and more consistency with how these things are handled in the county.”
Contact Emily Le Coz at (662) 678-1588 or firstname.lastname@example.org.