Franklin County highway department officials have a new building to occupy.

Doubling as a meeting place for small groups, the facility sits adjacent to the large road grader at the entrance to the county highway department and animal control locations.

Franklin County Board members Christy Brower, Jim McPhail and Harry Stewart are meeting there to make progress toward a subdivision ordinance. With highway engineer Mike Rolla at the helm, the committee discusses steps needed toward board acceptance of the ordinance for future subdivision developments.

Meeting Monday afternoon, the committee hammered out details on one of the steps in the process: an affidavit of compliance. Rolla said he is reviewing copies of affidavits from surrounding counties and has pulled portions of those documents together for committee review.

Members worked through line by line, discussing specifics of the affidavit. The one-page document includes information pertaining to property deed recordings and will be housed in the county clerk's office, once finalized and approved.

But that step is still months away.

Discussion ensued as to which office should implement the affidavit, with the general consensus being the county clerk's office. McPhail said since the county clerk's office is the one that records the deeds, it is only natural that it should also be responsible for the plat map recording.

Rolla said the Franklin-Williamson Bi-County Health Department is now involved in the subdivision, which is a good deal for the county. He said the health department would oversee sewer sanitation within subdivision developments.

He said while a subdivision ordinance does exist within the county, the document is outdated and really doesn't say much. Rolla said the ordinance would ensure sellers of property are in compliance with the state plat law.

“We have had several instances within the county where someone sells a piece of property and the buyer finds out that their home is located on someone else's property,” he said. “That is because the property was never surveyed or a tract of land was just divided within a family and proper channels were not followed.”

Stewart said he realizes that folks in the county are accustomed to doing things their own way, but understands that in today's world, this is no longer enough. A gentleman's agreement no longer is sufficient, McPhail said.

Rolla said the only way to ensure land development compliance is to have the ordinance in place. In order to verify the piece of property, the seller should have the land surveyed by a registered land surveyor. He said currently properties are not being surveyed when sold, causing buyers problems.

He said county subdivision requirements would apply only to new developments, saying there is no way to grandfather in those already developed. A subdivision is considered less than five acres of land. Rolla cited an example, saying it could be likened to the five-acre plot being separated from a larger tract of land.

Rolla said work on the subdivision ordinance document is only two-thirds finished, saying he is already at nine pages and expects the final draft to be much larger.

He said a number of state statutes are not being followed in the county, with regard to subdivisions. One such statute refers to set back property lines, which specifies how far back on the property a structure or fence can be constructed.

Rolla recommended following other ordinance examples and state law, which calls for a structure to be set back 25 feet from a frontage road and 10 feet from surrounding property lines. <br><br />He said as details of the subdivision ordinance are ironed out, County Clerk Dave Dobill and Supervisor of Assessments Cindy Humm would become involved in the process. Members called for the ordinance to be reviewed by both people, as well as seeking the advice of an attorney and the public at large.

Rolla reminded members the ordinance, when finished and approved, only applies to unincorporated areas of the county. He said Benton and West Frankfort are the only two communities within the county that have subdivision ordinances in place.
Members also discussed roads constructed within a subdivision, saying they should be oil and chip roads, at least, with curb and guttering. Rolla said a subdivision is only as good as its roadways. He said if a subdivision is developed correctly, the roadways are as good as they homes, which, in turn, net a larger profit for the seller.
Rolla said roadways within the subdivisions become county and township property after one year, adding townships are then responsible for their maintenance. He said maintenance is becoming more and more difficult because each township is receiving less and less money from the state in motor fuel tax revenue.

He said roadways within a subdivision would be required to be at least 20 feet wide, with two feet of shoulder on either side. Rolla explained that rules and regulations are different for private development roadways, which do not become part of the county. He said the county or township does not maintain private subdivision development roads.

Another issue is performance bond requirements, to ensure a developer completes the job. Members agreed this is a much-needed component of the ordinance.

Members also discussed the need for additional information, particularly from real estate agents. McPhail said he would talk with realtors to determine requirements for set back lines as they pertain to property development.

Rolla also discussed utility easements, saying the ordinance would call for a minimum of 10 feet on the side lots and 10 feet for all rear lots. He said utility lines, water lines, and sewer lines would be installed within the specified area in new subdivision developments. He said this, too, is state policy.

He also discussed an occasional need for a variance agreement. He said a developer must request a variance in writing in advance and brought to the board within 30 days for county board approval.

Rolla said a developer would be required to provide a preliminary engineering study for new road construction, including a preliminary plat study and a preliminary bond study, depending upon the size of the development.

A minimum of 15-inch in diameter culverts will be required for future subdivision developments under the ordinance. Rolla said the measurement applies to roads leading into a subdivision, with a 10-inch in diameter culvert requirement for individual driveways. He said the health department would be required to sign off on these documents to ensure the ordinance is being enforced.
Source: Benton Evening News, May 3, 2007.