Conditions of Summit County roads curbs permit process
When Michelle Hammond purchased property in the Garff Ranches neighborhood about a year ago, she went to great lengths to ensure she would be able to build her dream home there.
Hammond said she repeatedly approached Summit County’s engineering and building departments to understand the history of the neighborhood, located in South Summit off of S.R. 248, and what she would need to do to obtain a building permit.
“I wanted to make sure I was doing my due diligence before I even bought it,” she said.
It wasn’t until Hammond was denied a grading permit that she realized there would be a problem moving forward with her building plans. Hammond said she was told the roads in the neighborhood were never recorded with the county and would have to be upgraded to improve access for herself and other landowners before she could build her home.
“In the course of this, there was nothing from Summit County or the title company that would ever indicate that there would be a problem building a home,” she said. “All of these different things did not come out until after I had bought the property.”
Hammond was one of several dozen landowners who met with county staffers last month to try and understand what they would need to do to continue building in the area. Nearly 20 homes and two cabins have already been built.
Tom Foster, who has owned property at Garff Ranches for 23 years, said he understands the county’s issue with the roads, adding “I can see the concerns with fire protection and wanting to make more money on property values.”
“But, on the other side I think we have a mutual problem,” he said. “The county and landowners need to get together and be honest about what to do about those properties.”
Garff Rogers Ranch, LLC, created Garff Ranches in the early 1990s with 126 parcels ranging between 40 and 62 acres, according to information provided by Helen Strachan, deputy county attorney.
Approximately 65 40-acre parcels, known as Phase 1, were created with graded roads throughout the area for access, a report states. But, Phase 1 was never a recorded subdivision because it was created prior to both state and county laws that require the subdivision of property.
“On June 2, 1992, the County adopted Ordinance 199, requiring that all subdivisions of land, other than those to be used solely for agricultural purposes, to be reviewed by Summit County planning staff and approved by the Planning Commission and then Board of County Commissioners,” the report states. “Around the same time, in 1992, Garff Rogers divided approximately 65 40-acre parcels. This was called Garff Ranch, Phase 2. Garff Rogers was allegedly unaware of the adoption of Ordinance 199. It was the county’s position that this area should have gone through the subdivision process.”
Summit County Engineer Mike Kendall said the county is not refusing or temporarily suspending the issuance of building permits. He said anyone who wants to apply for a permit can and staff will review the plans as normal.
“If everything meets code and there is proper access to a parcel in Garff Ranches, they will get one,” he said.
But, Hammond said she feels like the county is requiring her to finance the road improvements herself.
“This code has been in place for over 10 years, and they’ve decided at this point they are going to enforce it?” she said. “The properties in Phase 1 were not required to plat for legal purposes so it was never filed. One of the problems is that those people (landowners with homes already built) have no incentive to pay for a new road and that’s the crux of the issue. What they have been saying is for me to correct the problem, and then all the people living up there will live on these roads.”
At the meeting last month, property owners drafted a list of options they’d like the county to consider to rectify the situation. Some of the suggestions included the county considering a cost share with the residents to improve the roads or grant the building permits on file and then establish a deadline date of when permits will be not be granted until improvements are made.
Anita Lewis, the county’s liaison for rural affairs, said she wants the citizens to know the county is going to “try the best we can to help them be able to build on their property.”
Brad Nelson, a lot owner in Garff Ranches Phase 1, said he has not applied for a building permit yet, but is confident the county will reach an amicable solution for all landowners.
“They seem competent, clear on the subject and willing to help create a solution,” he said. “Anita Lewis is tasked with getting them all together, and Patrick Putt and Mike Kendell both want to move forward and allow owners in Garff Ranches to be allowed to build.”
Meredith Reed was elected to a two-year term as chair of the Summit County Democratic Party and said she sees an opportunity to ride the so-called blue wave that saw a Democratic surge nationally and within the state.