Non-standard road program

Why opt in?

Roads will be maintained better than they were before.

The county will cover the cost of maintaining them.

Why opt out?

Residents would have more privacy along their private roads.

They also wouldn’t have to give right of way to the county.

HOLLYWOOD — Tony King has suffered a lot of aggravation and spent about $10,000 in the past decade maintaining the dirt road along which he and 12 other families live in the town’s Peterfield community.

Alfred Road now floods so severely in heavy rains that a school bus can’t drive down it. This year a bus was forced to turn around in his yard, and it tore up his lawn. Then, a knee-deep sink hole formed, and people started driving onto his waterlogged lawn to avoid it.

And the smell from the standing water was sickening.

“When it rains, you can’t even see this road,” King said.

But Charleston County has taken over maintenance of the road under its non-standard road program, which was launched in 2011. The program applies to nearly 300 rural dirt roads formerly known as community roads, which the county had minimally maintained for at least 20 years. It was unclear whether many of those roads were public or private, and the county decided to clear up their status.

The process is taking longer than expected, said Jim Neal, the county’s director of public works.

Each road has its own complex history and set of legal issues. And all the property owners who live along them have to agree unanimously on whether they will become private or public. The required consensus raises complicated relationship issues as well, he said.

So far, 52 of 287 roads eligible for the non-standard road program have been converted to public roads, county officials said. Property owners along two roads already have opted to become private and will forgo future county maintenance. And County Council on Tuesday will take a final vote on making private another nine roads.

If property owners decide their road is public, the county will maintain it better than it did before, County Administrator Kurt Taylor has said.

Previously, the county would regularly smooth the community roads with a motor grader, trim the vegetation enough so the motor grader could move along the road, and fill potholes with dirt. But that’s all it could do.

The Alfred Road case is extremely complicated, said King, who has been pushing for road improvements for the past eight years.

He eventually got the attention of County Councilwoman Anna Johnson, who represents the Hollywood area. Johnson got Carter McMillan from the non-standard road program involved, King said.

At first, two of the other 12 property owners who live out of state were reluctant to sign off on the plan, King said. They were worried about losing a portion of their property, he said, but they came around after county officials explained the plan to them.

Then, county officials and residents learned that the road they have been using isn’t the original road approved under the 1965 community roads program. That road is overgrown and now runs through a portion of King’s property.

The county eventually will cut a new road along the original path, King said, and it will include drainage ditches along it that will alleviate the flooding problems.

King is willing to turn over a portion of his property in exchange for the improved drainage, he said. And when the new road is completed, several of his neighbors will be able to reclaim land through which the current road runs. They can expand their yards, he said.

“I will give up as much footage as they need to get the water and mosquitoes off of me,” King said.

In the meantime, the county is maintaining the existing road, he said, and it’s doing a good job.

Shirley Carter, who lives along Jeff Gaillard Lane on James Island, said things went much more smoothly on her road. Five family members live along the road, which had fallen into disrepair, she said. In previous years, residents spent a lot of money keeping the road in shape, she said, so it didn’t take them long to agree to have the county take over maintenance.

Already the county has graded the road and put down gravel. “At one time, it was like a river when it rained,” she said.

Neal said many residents continue to have questions about the program and what it will mean for their particular roads. And county staffers will continue to meet with them to come up with solutions.

There’s a bright side to all the complicated negotiations and discussions with rural community groups, he said. Public works employees are getting to know the residents and developing much better relationships with them. “But the process is taking a lot more time than originally envisioned.”

Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.