County Sets Sights on Dirt Roads

BLYTHEWOOD – Many residents in Blythewood 29016 became concerned last month when they received preliminary informed consent forms, which if agreed to would allow Richland County to pave the dirt roads they live on. A letter accompanying the form said the County is asking for a 50-foot easement on those dirt roads – 25 feet on each side of the road’s center line – in exchange for $1.

“Property owners who consent to the easement will retain ownership of the property,” Rob Perry, Director of Transportation for the new Transportation Penny Tax program, said Monday. “They are only granting the County the right to pave and maintain the road and shoulder.”

Perry said that if county residents who live on dirt roads do want their roads paved, they can either sign and return the Preliminary Informed Consent Form or do nothing and, either way, it will be assumed they want their road paved.

But Perry said that if residents living along dirt roads do not want their roads paved, they must send the consent form in with their denial of consent or it will be assumed they want their road paved.

Perry said the preliminary consent form is not binding.

“The purpose of the consent form is to allow us to gauge how many roads we can plan on paving,” he explained. “If we get at least 25 percent of the people on the road turning in forms that deny consent for paving, then we aren’t going to spend money designing a road that we aren’t going to pave. If we get more than 75 percent of the residents on a road consenting to have their road paved or don’t turn in forms, then we go back to our designers and have them design that road. After the road is designed we go back to the residents and ask them to sign permission for the easement which is binding.”

To explain the program to those living on dirt roads in the Blythewood area, the County hosted a public forum last week at the Community Center on Campground Road.

“I understand there was strong opposition to paving from some Blythewood folks at that meeting who live on dirt roads,” Perry said. “Blythewood is horse country and some of them want dirt roads. I respect that. We aren’t trying to force anyone to pave their roads.”

However, he pointed out, residents who do not want their road paved need to take the time to complete their denial of consent on the form and mail it back. If no form is returned, it will count as a consent.

Perry said the program is made possible by an ordinance County Council recently passed that permits low cost paving on low volume roads.

“The quality of the paving is the same,” Perry said, “but the asphalt is thinner. It doesn’t need to be designed for heavy traffic.”

Plus, he said, $45 million in new funding for paving is available from the Transportation Penny Tax revenue, and about $1.4 million in funding is available from the County Transportation Committee annually.

“County Council District 2 (Blythewood’s District) has 106 dirt roads (41 miles in length) and the county has 240 miles of dirt roads,” Perry said, “and we will begin paving the first 35 of those roads this summer.”

He said he expects the list of roads to be paved each year will soon be posted on the Richland County website at richlandonline.com.

Perry encouraged anyone with questions about the program to call him at 576-1526.

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