Tuesday, May 24, 2022

Pender County Sheriff says impromptu toll road is legal, for now

The road is privately-owned, according to county officials, meaning no steps will be taken to stop the private toll

Members of the neighborhood road maintenance organization elected to collect a toll for through traffic traveling to Surf City (Port City Daily photo/Michael Praats)
Members of the neighborhood road maintenance organization elected to collect a toll for through traffic traveling to Surf City (Port City Daily photo/Michael Praats)

SURF CITY—The neighborhood that decided to take matters into its own hands to cut down on non-residents using a privately maintained street by charging a $5 toll have been somewhat vindicated–at least for the time being.

READ MORE: Facing heavy traffic and poor street maintenance, these Pender County residents made their own toll

The road in question, Cedar Avenue, is one of the only routes to Surf City that bypasses Highway 210. It is not a publicly maintained road and is designated private.

Despite the label of private, the property is not owned by a private individual, instead a neighborhood road maintenance organization has control of the property.

A press release sent from the Pender County Sheriff’s Office states, “According to the general warranty deed of July 12, 2017 between Lanier Development Inc. and Cedar Landing II and Creek Estates Road Maintenance Organization Inc. (CL2/CE RMO), Cedar Avenue appears to be a private road owned by CL2/CE RMO. There are no laws that we know of that prohibit an owner of private property from charging for the use of that property.  Should any member of the community find themselves at odds with CL2/CE RMO, they may need to seek relief through civil court proceedings.  If there is any unrest at any potential ‘toll booth,’ the sheriff’s office will respond to keep the peace.”

But what about state law?

Under General State Statutes Chapter 136-67, neighborhood public roads are those that are not maintained by the state but offer ingress and egress to multiple homes. These roads would have to remain accessible to homeowners, and the group is not able to charge a toll to residents, Captain Billy Sanders of Pender County Sheriff’s Office said.

Since the road maintenance organization is providing stickers to residents who live on the road and will not impede residential traffic, the county attorney has claimed the toll is not in violation of state law, Sanders said.

But the laws are still open for interpretation and Sanders said it is likely a judge would have to make an official ruling on the issue. This means someone who affected by the toll would have to take the road maintenance organization to court.

Similarly, if drivers refused to pay the toll and used the street, it would be up to the organization to get photos and evidence against the driver and file a lawsuit in civil court.

Pender County Planning and Zoning, as well as code ordinance also were unsure of the legality of the actions.


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