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When homeowners are left holding the bag

Last week, Meck Times reporter Tara Ramsey wrote about one of the ugly byproducts of the housing crisis.

Believe it or not, there are subdivisions in the Charlotte area where residents have been repairing their own potholes after developers pulled out of the developments before all of the houses were built.

As wild as it sounds to those of us living in a developed nation, those residents had to go to a home-improvement store and buy their own asphalt so that they and their neighbors could patch their own streets. Otherwise, they would have remained unrepaired.

No one else has fixed their streets for them, not the city, the county or the state.

And you can blame it on state law.

According to Ramsey’s story, the state will take over the streets in a subdivision, but — and it’s a big but — certain conditions have to be met first. For one, there must be at least four homes on the street. In the case of a cul-de-sac, there must be, on average, two homes for every tenth of a mile before the state will take it over.

Thanks to the downturn in the housing market, some subdivisions don’t meet those criteria because the developers never completed the projects. (What happens, typically, is a developer doesn’t sell enough homes to avoid a lender foreclosing on the project.)

Regardless of why a subdivision gets left unfinished, for the unlucky souls who bought into those projects it means they are left figuring out what to do about their pockmarked streets, something that most of us don’t have to worry about. For most people who live in a subdivision, maintenance means power-washing vinyl siding or planting grass seed in the backyard, not chucking asphalt from Lowe’s into a hole in the middle of your street.

But even if a subdivision has enough homes completed, the state won’t necessarily become the caretaker of the streets.

Ramsey reports that the state will only take street maintenance off the hands of a subdivision’s residents if the streets are in good condition, which could mean not only repairing potholes but also installing new storm drains.

Whose responsibility is it to get the streets in good condition? If you guessed the residents’, you win.

Of course, repairing a road is not cheap. All that material and construction equipment can add up.

According to Ramsey’s story, the residents of the Miranda subdivision in northwest Charlotte would need to make $40,000 in street repairs before the state would take over maintenance.

Even if homeowners could raise that much money, Delbert Roddenberry, secondary-roads program manager for the state transportation department, said some areas in the state require 90 percent of the homes in a subdivision to be built before the state will take over the streets.

It’s an impractical requirement.

No one is going to move into a subdivision if the streets look like crap. So, how is it supposed to reached 90 percent completion?

It’s scary to picture yourself stuck in a subdivision whose streets are falling apart around you, the deterioration possibly dooming the subdivision from ever being complete.

Buy into a partially built subdivision in North Carolina? No way. After learning about all of this, I’d buy only in one that’s finished, or be a renter, or move into a trailer park.

Editor Deon Roberts can be reached at deon.roberts@mecktimes.com.

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