County Attorney Crystal Freiberg addressed the Bradley County Commission Monday afternoon regarding taxing private roads in Bradley County. She explained how the process currently works in order to outline problems many homeowners are having.
She said, “Private roads are allowed under current subdivision regulations in two different ways. If there are six or less lots, one is allowed to develop a private road to a lesser standard than if one has six or more lots. Those with six or fewer lots can be gravel roads, the majority of which are in the county. If it is six or more it has to be developed the same as a county road would be. They have been allowed for a long time. The justification I have for them is if someone has a large tract of land and wants to give ten acres to each family member, you would have to give them a private road to access their property if they were landlocked in some way.”
“When platted, the private road is maintained by the lot owners who join it. How it works currently, the county planner will accept the plat then recommend it, then it goes to the planning commission and they will approve it, then it goes to the assessor of property office for assessment purposes and it will be taxed completely separate from the lots that adjoin it and use it.”
One of the problems is due to limitations of the assessment software. Typically speaking, it will be in the name of the developer and as long as the developer pays the taxes everything is fine. Sometimes it gets moved into homeowners name and sometimes it doesn’t. If it does, it goes into the homeowner’s name whose property has been touching the road longest. However, that is the only person whose name it’s in for tax purposes. It is usually a minimal tax amount.
That information is sent to the trustee’s office for the tax bill. Because it is in one person’s name the bill only goes to that one person. The rest of the homeowners that touch the road do not get a notice. April 1 each year the delinquent tax list is made. If a private road is on that list, a title search is done and notices are sent to the people who have use or an ownership interest in the private road. Many people up to this point often never knew they had an ownership interest in the road.
She went on to explain, “Some roads are ready to be sold in a tax sale. At that point, technically legally speaking, we can sell the road. However, there are some people concerned about the fairness of that. So, most of the issues are from a tax purpose standpoint. The assessor’s office is unable to send notices to everybody with their current software. Another problem is if I am a land owner and I do know that I have taxes on a private road with six landowners, I can’t just pay my 1/6 share of the payment. If one of the other owners doesn’t pay, it still gets turned over for delinquent taxes unless the entire amount is paid.”
“Also, the county is not responsible for upkeep or repair of a private road. Often times the homeowner doesn’t know they have this obligation, so the road falls into disrepair. Roads that are developed to sub-county standards, for example gravel roads, can never be county roads unless they are completely redone.”
Commissioner Ed Elkins recommended referring the private road situation to the Delinquent Tax Committee in order to try to resolve the problems, recommend options and bring a proper resolution to the commission.
In other business, Chairman Louie Alford appointed members to the Lake Forest Study Ad Hoc Committee. Members include: Bradley County Mayor D. Gary Davis, Chairman Louie Alford, Chairman of Finance Committee Ed Elkins, Chairman of Education Committee Adam Lowe, Director Bradley County Schools Johnny McDaniel, Chairman Bradley County School Board Charlie Rose, Chairman Bradley County School Board Capital Projects Committee Chris Turner, Ex Officio Lynn Burns and Ex Officio Rick Smith.
The Bradley County Commission will hold its next voting session meeting on Monday at noon.