Heavily debated R.O.W. resolution upended

Posted 7/3/19

After months of discussion, a resolution governing the use of the county right-of-way failed to be approved during Monday night’s Bradley County Commission voting session.

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Heavily debated R.O.W. resolution upended

THIS PHOTO was shared by Bradley County Road Superintendent Sandra Knight as an example of why a resolution governing the use of the county’s right of way is needed.
THIS PHOTO was shared by Bradley County Road Superintendent Sandra Knight as an example of why a resolution governing the use of the county’s right of way is needed.
Contributed photo

After months of discussion, a resolution governing the use of the county right of way failed to be approved during the Bradley County Commission's voting session earlier this week.

The County Commission’s Road Committee took up discussion of the proposed resolution last fall and it has been discussed during multiple meetings since then.

Sandra Knight, Bradley County’s road superintendent, has noted in previous discussions of the proposed resolution that it will allow Bradley County to better control how the rights of way on county roads are used.

“We started this in 2015,” Knight said of work to introduce and implement the proposed resolution, adding the Road Department worked with several utility companies at that time to address their concerns.

In addition to discussion by commissioners, input was sought from the Ocoee Region Builders Association, which opposed the resolution.

Commissioner Erica Davis asked in Monday's session if an ORBA representative was present to explain why the organization opposed the resolution.

“We did send a letter that was sent out to all the commissioners,” Commissioner Charlotte Peak said.

Both Peak and Commissioner Dennis Epperson are developers and members of ORBA’s board of directors.

Epperson said the government affairs committee for ORBA presented detailed concerns about the proposed resolution to Knight.

“We were not opposed to the resolution, we just had concerns about the resolution,” Epperson said, adding the main issue is a 30-day requirement for a permit, which Knight reduced to seven days. Epperson said that is still too long to wait, especially since it takes only days to get a building permit.

Epperson added the meeting with Knight “started out really rocky,” but did not elaborate. He added if the proposed resolution were approved, it would duplicate laws already in place related to rights of way.

In addition, Epperson said ORBA was concerned the proposed resolution “is more government” and believes it’s not needed.

“Basically they’re against it,” Epperson said.

Peak said she believes the resolution would place unnecessary burden on Bradley County’s residents, and she is concerned about potential fees and fines.

During Monday’s meeting, Knight was again asked about the proposed resolution. She shared a photo “of what we are trying to prevent,” showing a construction site with the curb damaged and sediment issues. She said the fees and fines are already in laws and can be enforced either through the county attorney or the 10th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

“We’re not putting anything new in there,” Knight said, adding the resolution would give money from fines to Bradley County rather than the state. “It’s not new laws, it’s not new rules, it’s just a different way of enforcing them.”

Knight added she gets daily phone calls about “rock and block” mailboxes on narrow roads. These types of mailboxes interfere with paving and cause safety concerns, she said. Knight added the U.S. Postal Service has standards for a breakaway post that should be followed.

Commissioner Howard Thompson said he thinks the U.S. Postal Service should enforce mailbox regulations. He added he doesn’t see how some fences are allowed on the right of way and others aren’t.

Commissioner Bill Winters asked about fines. Knight said the fine is $500 per day for right-of-way damage. She added you don’t need a permit to repair a fence or put a mailbox on a breakaway post.

Vice Chairman Jeff Yarber asked how many issues the Road Department sees like the one in the photo. Knight said there are several issues, including eight in one subdivision.

Asking about fines, Yarber said he has heard the Road Department has no intent of imposing fines.

“We’ve tried to put everything in black and white,” Knight said.

Yarber asked if fines will be assessed to repair or replace existing fences. Knight said they will not, and the resolution states fences can be rebuilt without a permit.

Epperson said ORBA previously asked for a list of examples of why the proposed resolution is needed. He asked Knight what is wrong in the photo she showed of a home construction site.

Knight said there is no erosion control, drainage pipes were filled with dirt, and the curb and manhole were damaged.

Epperson said it looks to him like the curb cut is for the home’s driveway. Knight agreed it does look like a driveway cut, but the curb shouldn’t have been cut and there are regulations for developers to follow. She added commissioners have heard about multiple drainage issues throughout the county because of curb cuts allowing water to flow into driveways and, sometimes, into houses.

Epperson said most developers who get a call from customers about issues like that fix the problems because of complaints.

Winters asked why the majority of the Road Committee supported the proposed resolution in a 4-1 vote.

Commissioner Kevin Raper, chairman of the Road Committee, said discussion of the proposed resolution began last fall in his first meeting as chairman, when Knight was asked to get ORBA involved. Raper said he believes “she made every possible change” that was requested, and ORBA was asked again at last week’s County Commission work session to speak with Knight about any additional changes the organization would like to see.

Peak acknowledged Knight worked with all the requested changes, “but I am for less government, less intrusion,” and she called the proposed resolution “a reproduction of current laws.”

Ultimately, the vote to approve the resolution failed 11-3.

After the meeting, Peak emailed a copy of the photo Knight shared with commissioners to the Cleveland Daily Banner, along with a comment reiterating her opposition to the proposed resolution. Peak said the photo shows “that erosion control was in place but had been removed to finish the yard and to prep the driveway for concrete which also includes taking out the curb at the end of the driveway.” Peak said there was nothing in that picture that was incorrect that had to do with the Road Department.

In addition, Peak said Knight should have called the Bradley County Inspections Office with erosion control concerns “and reported issues if she saw sediment going into the storm drain.”

“Nothing in the proposed resolution that was voted down would have done anything any differently than she could have done the day she took this picture,” Peak said.

Epperson also emailed a comment to the Banner regarding Knight's comments and the photo she shared with commissioners. He took issue with Knight's description of the photo as, "This is what the home builders represent, this is what we are trying to prevent."

"I find it unfortunate that an elected official that works within the building industry on a daily basis would make this kind of statement," Epperson stated in the email. "It's imperative that we keep a good working relationship between government and the small business working community. Our local economy and thousands of jobs weigh in the balance of this working relationship."

In other business, the County Commission:

• Approved the 2019-20 fiscal year budget calendar, to remove the July 1 item: “County Commission votes to approve the 2019-20 budget document and to set the new tax rate.”

The County Commission previously approved adding a July 8 public hearing on a property tax increase to the budget calendar, as well as a July 15 date to approve the budget document and set the new tax rate.

Peak and Thompson voted against changing the budget calendar.

• Approved a resolution authorizing Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis to execute an easement to Santek Environmental Inc. across the public right of way of Bancroft Road for an underground gas main for the transmission and distribution of methane gas from the landfill property to a connection with an existing pipeline. The resolution was unanimously approved.

• Approved a resolution authorizing the Bradley County mayor to execute a permanent drainage easement and temporary construction easement to the Tennessee Department of Transportation for highway project No. NH-60(13) west of an adjacent to the present right-of-way line of State Route 60. The resolution was unanimously approved.

• Approved a resolution authorizing the Bradley County mayor to enter into a five-year lease agreement with two additional optional renewal periods of five years each with the United States Postal Service for the facilities located at 155 Broad St. N.W., in Cleveland. The lease is $25,480 per year for the first five years, and increases to $26,754 per year for the first optional renewal period of five years. The per-year cost for the second optional renewal period of five years is $28,092.

The U.S. Postal Service is currently leasing approximately 2,116 square feet of net interior space at the Bradley County Annex Building. The resolution was unanimously approved.

• Approved a resolution authorizing the Bradley County mayor to enter into an annexation inter-local agreement between the city of Cleveland and Bradley County regarding the non-contiguous annexation of property owned by James F. Williams, Diane Williams, Joseph Michael Montgomery and Leslie Montgomery. The resolution was approved in an 11-2 vote, with Alford and Thompson voting in opposition. Commissioner Tim Mason was absent from the meeting.

The Bradley County Commission next meets in work session at noon on Monday, July 8, in the County Commission Courtroom of the Courthouse.

Inset Quote:

“We’re not putting anything new in there. It’s not new laws, it’s not new rules, it’s just a different way of enforcing them.” — Sandra Knight


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