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Changes on the horizon for Cache County road standards

By Rhett Wilkinson

LOGAN — Cache County residents will not have to pay taxes for new roads near subdivisions outside the county borders in the near future, if Josh Runhaar has anything to say about it.

Runhaar is Cache Valley Regional County Director of Development Services, and is advocating potential amendments to the county constitution, which would mandate that developers pay for new roads that will be constructed in conjunction with subdivisions located outside county lines.

“The purpose of the amendments are to create standards which can help bring better direction to constructing roadways,” he said. “We need a set of standards like this to create a system for the construction of our roads.”

Meanwhile, Gordon Zilles, former chairman of the Cache County Council, while expressing excitement about the upcoming likely passage of the amendment, also shared frustration about the tedious approach that both the county and the planning and zoning councils have taken to the motion.

Runhaar hopes the planning commission will have made a decision by April 7. From there, the council, which Runhaar said is “fairly far along in the (decision-making) process,” would need to complete the documents to put it to action.

Jon White, current chairman of the county council, added that he hopes to have such formal work completed by May.

Zilles, who was replaced by White this year after serving the permitted one year on the council chairman carousel, hopes that it marks the end of a process which he said has taken far too long. He said he previously had a personal goal of getting the amendment passed while he was in office. He said while he had enough trouble helping contractors see why they need to pay for the roads that extend outside the county line, another barrier has involved encouraging efficiency in the decision-making process from both the county and planning and zoning council.

“Some of the developers are tired of hearing what we can and can’t do, and have just said, ‘this office is a joke,’” he said.

Runhaar also said that the upcoming change hasn’t come without the public eye taking a view at his and others efforts. “I’ve received comments from the public, questions about how it frames us,” he said with regard to what inquirers were expecting from their upcoming road conditions. “It’s a large piece of work, even after the document gets through.”

Zilles further explained that one main problem has been the fact that the efforts spent during meetings toward the amendment have involved actually writing the procedure, rather than having had it written before the meeting so they could discuss it. It’s a problem that s compounded when the council has already been in a meeting for two or three hours and haven’t wanted to spend another hour writing or discussing the amendment for another hour, he said.

Outside the county office walls, there’s been the secondary challenge of helping developers see the need to pay for their own roads.

“The bottom line is nobody wants to be able to build the roads; human nature is to do it for as cheap as you can,” he said. “Tell someone they are two miles from asphalt and so they will need to put in their own, they say there’s no way in heck to be able to do that. But, their subdivision is too far out, so we’ve just been honest with them and said ‘you can’t expect taxpayers to be able to develop property which is not even in their county.’”

Regardless of the arduous process, Zilles said he is more than looking forward to the passage of the amendment.

“I’m excited as I’ll get out; then we can move onto other things,” said Zilles, sounding like he was still a member of the council, if not just a passionate citizen and former member in reality.

“It could be changed again, then amended again, but when there’s nothing coming forth there’s nothing to act upon, so I don’t know why it would take much longer. Maybe that’s the political system, I don’t know. But it’s sure been slow in coming.”

Like Zilles, White also said that the push to have a designated road standard has been two years in the making.

“It’s been known that we’ve needed (the road uniformity),” Runhaar said. “The need was initiated by our office and brought before the council. It’s been one of our top priorities since the beginning of last year.”

White said that the amendment will also benefit the council because they won’t have to be as uncertain about how to handle roads during planning meetings. Now, they will have a uniform knowledge of the road standards and who is expected to pay for them.

“Everyone will know where they stand,” he said. “It will speed up the planning and zoning process.”

White, who also fully expects the amendment will pass, said he welcomes the amendment as an action that will make life easier for all in the community.

“I don’t know for how long, but we’ve never had a basic road standard when we’re planning and zoning something,” said White, who also noted that the contractors will still be expected to build the roads with the fire department-mandated 20-foot minimum width. “I’ve actually hated the way (the road structure and system) has been for a lot of years.”

Runhaar said upcoming development challenges involve what pieces will work well in the construction. “We will adjust, tweak, and make adjustments as necessary,” he said.

For reasons that the labor will continue far after the amendment passes, Runhaar said he has no plans for any sort of celebration after the paperwork is done. That’s when it is time to grab the hard hat and the lunchpail and go to work.

“Nope, no celebration–just start working on the next piece that needs to be done,” he said. “Just move forward with making any needed fixes.”

NW