Private to Public Roads
Usually when a new planned community is build, the developer will build and install the infrastructure of the neighborhood, including the roads. At this time, they, along with all the lots and common areas, are owned by the developer. The developer should also incorporate a homeowner’s association at this time. The developer will then typically deed common areas to the HOA who will take over the maintenance of those areas. The HOA is initially controlled by the developer, but as the community matures and more houses are built, the HOA falls under the control of the individual lot and house owners.
Sometimes the roads in the community are deeded to the HOA along with the common areas. At this time, the roads are still private roads, whether owned by the developer or the HOA. Each lot owner by virtue of the filed map of the community has the right to use the roads. If the developer has not agreed in the declarations to maintain the private roads, the HOA and the lot owners have to shoulder that burden.
In order to escape the responsibility of maintaining the private roads, the HOA can petition the North Carolina Department of Transportation to take over the road. The DOT will require a sr-1-1 form to be completed. They will then investigate the road and should accept it as a public road if it meets their standards. Things like width, type of construction, curbing, turn-around areas are all areas that the DOT checks to determine if the private road meets the standards. If the road does not, the DOT will refuse to accept. The HOA can then choose to either pay for the required upgrades or the road, or continue to pay to maintain the road.
Another item to consider is that the HOA has much more control over private roads. They can choose to install speed bumps, signs, regulate on-street parking, or establish a speed limit. Once the DOT takes over the road, the state and local government controls those issues.
-Bradley A. Coxe is a practicing attorney in Wilmington, NC who practices in Personal Injury, Car Accidents, Medical Malpractice, Contract and Real Estate disputes, and all forms of Civil Litigation. Please contact him at (910) 772-1678.