Private roads result in commission contemplation

Benton County commissioners had expected to vote on a new rule that would allow private roads to serve no more than four parcels in a short-plat development for housing.

But the commissioners received more push-back to the plan than expected and decided to delay the vote for a couple of months.

Commissioners say the issue is maintenance of private roads.

The county's planning director says the practice of short-platting -- splitting a rural parcel into four lots -- is excessive now and virtually unregulated.

A single private road can end up as the only access for dozens of rural homes as property is developed through the existing short-plat process.

But landowners say the proposed restriction to four lots per road would stymie growth and devalue their investment in property they had planned to subdivide.

The county commissioners held a public hearing on the matter last week and received no support for the ordinance.

They did, however, hear from several folks who have in a stake in the development of property in the county, ranging from private landowners to real estate brokers and the head of the Homebuilders Association of the Tri-Cities.

Details of the plan include limiting the number of lots created on existing private roads to no more than 50.

Property owners who choose to create more than four parcels would have to build a road to county standards, with a 40-foot easement.

Some at the hearing said the restrictions are just not doable for existing private roads where geography allows no feasible way to create a second access road.

But other neighboring counties have much more stringent conditions than those that currently exist in Benton County.

Franklin County allows only two lots per private road and Walla Walla allows of four.

Proper access to property is crucial for emergency response vehicles and the safety of residents in general. It makes sense for county officials to take a look at the issue and find a reasonable path to fair regulations.

But we're also glad to see the commissioners listen when their constituents come to complain.

The commissioners unanimously voted to postpone any action on the issue. The public hearing will be continued in February to allow for more community involvement.

The commissioners are listening, it's a good time for citizens to make their voices heard.