State change to law allows flexibilityBy Jonathan Copsey; Appen Newspapers
February 15, 2011
MILTON - Privatizing a road is a touchy subject. Residents of a subdivision may be concerned over the safety of their roads thanks to commuters cutting through. However, those commuters are using their roads because the main ones are clogged with too much traffic. If the subdivision is cut off, that's one less route through Milton.
At last week's meeting, the council heard from city staff, which said Milton should look at changing its rules now that state law has changed to give municipalities more leeway in deciding what roads to abandon.
When a municipality abandons a road – thereby privatizing it – the city stops paying for the upkeep. The residents who wished their road privatized would be responsible for keeping it up to city code, but they would have the freedom to do what they please in regards to traffic-calming measures– installing speed bumps or even gating off the road.
A new law introduced by Jan Jones (R-Milton) last year relaxes the burden on cities that want to abandon roads. Under the previous law, cities had to get 100 percent approval of all residents who may be affected by the abandonment. In a subdivision, that could mean every resident within.
City Attorney Ken Jarrard said that, under the new law, council could have wide leeway in how it decides who gets to privatize their roads, basing judgment on whether it serves the public interest to keep the road.
"That is altogether a different thing," Jarrard said to the council. "You as a city council get to determine what is in the best interest of the city. That's why you were elected."
He added, "I think that's a significant change."
All North Fulton cities have the 100 percent rule and, to staff's knowledge, there are no other cities thinking of changing their policy.
Now that the door is open to change the city's law, most council members voiced concern to requiring every affected resident's approval.
"I don't believe 100 percent approval is a realistic standard," said Council member Karen Thurman, whose sentiment was echoed by the others on council, with Joe Longoria adding that homeowners' associations should get more of a say.
"Something like 75 percent of Milton's citizens live in a subdivision that has an association coupled with it," Longoria said. "I think we should allow the HOA to play a role."
Several subdivisions in Milton have pushed to close off their roads to cut down of traffic and crime, however they cannot gate off a public road. The residents of Crooked Creek subdivision have long been asking to gate their roads, and that was a major issue during Longoria's election campaign. However, they have fallen short of the 100 percent resident approval.
Staff will take council's comments and revise the ordinance, bringing it back before council for approval in a few months.
Also discussed at the meeting:
* An alcoholic beverage license was unanimously approved to "Erwood's," a new business to open in Crabapple.
* Qualifying fees for this year's municipal elections were set at $390, or 3 percent of the salary a council member would make in the year. The elections will be held Nov. 8, with the seats of Julie Zahner Bailey (District 1), Burt Hewitt (District 4) and Alan Tart (District 6) on the ballot.