Richland County public hearing on dirt road paving is July 18

COLUMBIA – Richland County is forging ahead to amend the county’s Dirt Road Paving ordinance by removing the section in Chapter 21 that has allowed 25 percent of property owners on the road to effectively decline a road paving project.

The county’s Interim Transportation Director Michael Maloney recently advised the County’s Transportation Ad Hoc committee that the amendment would allow the County to proactively pursue and complete the paving of Richland County dirt roads. The amendment could affect about a hundred dirt roads in Blythewood 29016.

The committee unanimously supported Maloney’s proposed amendment, and sent it to county council with a recommendation for approval. Council has approved the first and second reading of the amendment. The final reading and a public hearing are scheduled for July 18 at 6 p.m., at the Richland County government building.

While some people who live on dirt roads don’t want what they say paving will bring – increased, unwanted, and faster traffic, others have signed consent agreements to have theirs paved.

The agreement, however, does not spell that the property owner will getting more than asphalt spread over a 12-foot wide graveled road.

One property owner who spoke with The Voice said that after she signed a non-binding consent form with the county to have her road paved, she learned she would have to give up enough of her property along the road to expand the 12-foot road to two lanes wide with ample right of way for shoulders and drainage on each side of the two-lane road.

If the section in Chapter 21 that allows 25 percent of the property owners on a road to decline a road paving project is removed, consent forms would no longer be necessary. Maloney explained that the Dirt Road Paving ordinance provides for takings of the right of way by the county. He said the county would be able to take roads for paving and “may pay the property owner for the land.”

Maloney said a dirt road is more expensive to maintain than a paved road, citing the cost of personnel and equipment, but did not include other costs associated with maintaining a paved road such as large amounts of expensive materials needed to maintain paved roads.

He told the committee that he would provide a report comparing those expenses, but did not present such a report at either the first or the second reading by county council.

“I can’t believe our council representatives are doing such an about-face. They must not know how valuable dirt roads are to the majority of residents living on them,” said Kim Murphy who lives on a dirt road. “Though I think the current 25 percent clause is best, if they really think the majority want it paved, increase the threshold to 51%, but don’t do away with it completely.  Otherwise, it feels like the County wants unfettered access — for whatever reason — to pave dirt roads and take land for 50 feet of right-of-way.”

“Why would they think residents would want to trade a slow-speed country dirt road for a high-speed paved road with traffic and potholes that would facilitate the construction of dense housing subdivisions or multi-family developments?” Murphy said.

She encouraged property owners to attend the meeting, wear red, and speak out.

To speak for or against the proposed amendment to the Dirt Paving Amendment, property owners must arrive at the county building (2020 Hampton Street in Columbia) a few minutes early to sign up to speak.

Contact us: (803) 767-5711 | P.O. Box 675, Blythewood, SC 29016 | [email protected]