SURF CITY—As traffic problems continue to get worse in the Cape Fear Region, many drivers are turning off the beaten path in favor of so-called short cuts through neighborhoods and other less-traveled streets. But at least some members of a neighborhood near Surf City have had enough of drivers using private roads as a shortcut and have taken matters into their own hands.
The neighborhoods of Cedar Landing and Creek Estates are located on private roads in Pender County near Surf City. It is the sole alternative route to highway 210 heading out of town, according to Jeff Conerly, who helps run the neighborhood’s Cedar Landing and Creek Estates Road Maintenance Organization (CL-CERMO).
The CL-CERMO was formed in 2015 after the developer who previously maintained the roads discontinued any maintenance on the streets. Since the neighborhoods did not have a home owners association, the road maintenance organization was created with the sole intention of keeping the roads navigable.
Since the roads are considered private, the North Carolina Department of Transportation does not maintain the roads or help keep them up to standards. This duty falls on the homeowners and the road maintenance organization, but getting everyone to agree on methods is often a difficult task.
“We formed in 2015 and are incorporated with the state. Our sole objective is maintenance of these roads. We have been to DOT; the division engineer has been in a meeting here in my office on that very subject (of turning roads over to the state). Their hands are, in many respects, tied,” Conerly said. “Until our road is up to their standard we can’t even get it on their list for DOT to take over.”
His ultimate goal for the roads is to bring the streets up to NCDOT standards with the intent of turning the organization’s ownership over to the state to maintain. But, to get the roads up to standards, Conerly said he expects it to cost $1.3 million.
Homeowners are asked to pay annual dues to the CL-CERMO, but only 58-percent of homeowners pay currently, he said. There is little that can be done to ensure residents pay their dues, but there are some incentives for people to pay.
When homes in the neighborhoods are put up for sale, lenders are looking to see if the owner is paid up with dues with legal entities like the road maintenance organization; if not, the bank will not lend the money for the home purchase, Conerly said.
Taking a toll
In an effort to track the traffic using the route, Conerly utilized a Department of Transportation standard traffic counter, as well as a camera system. Traffic counts were in the thousands each week, and get increasingly worse during the summer months and holiday’s he said.
The CL-CERMO has come up with its own plan to help pay for the road maintenance and help reduce through traffic to the neighborhoods–collecting a toll for all non-resident traffic.
On May 19, the organization held an emergency meeting to discuss the implementation of a toll of $5 for drivers using the roads as a cut through.
The CL-CERMO voted unanimously to approve the decision, Conerly said.
Residents have received a letter from the group along with a sticker to signify the status of property owner and will not be charged to use the road. Visitors of residents who know where they are going will also be permitted to use the road without a fee.
The legality of the methods employed by the group is facing scrutiny from neighbors, but according to the Pender County Planning Department it is not clear if the implementation of a toll road is legal, even if the road is private.
Other residents who live in the neighborhoods have voiced their dissatisfaction with the methods taken by the CI-CERMO on social media.
Since the NCDOT does not maintain the road, NCDOT Spokesman Brian Rick said it was not up to the state agency to determine the legality of the situation. However, implementing a toll or impeding traffic on a road, even if it is not maintained by the state, might not be allowed.
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