Georgia County Government - May/June 2012 - (Page 31)

Counties&TheLaw Road Acquisition and Abandonment By Ken Jones, Esq. and Jennifer Dorminey Herzog, Esq. M How Land is Acquired any counties have hundreds of miles of unpaved roads in the county road system. Maintaining these roads is an obligation of the county. Some counties have partially built subdivisions with small streets that were built-out and dedicated to the county as a public road. Some of these subdivisions are abandoned or foreclosed upon with no one taking responsibility. Although some of these roads, both paved and unpaved, are utilized by only a few people, their maintenance is a great expense. Counties struggle with justifying maintenance that benefits only a few people. Is it fair to have the taxpayers of the county paying for these roads? Could it be seen as providing a gratuity to those few residents, or, even worse, a single resident? Do these roads actually serve a public purpose? express or implied. (6) Implied acceptance is less desirable. The best defense against implied acceptance is to have roads accepted only by an affirmative action that is voted on and recorded in the official minutes. there must be an offer to dedicate and an acceptance by the commission or by the general public. (10) Consider crafting language for a stamp to be placed on plats submitted for approval to state acceptance can be only by an affirmative commission vote. This would be in line with the Georgia Code on Subdivisions (11) and could be helpful in avoiding inheriting a costly and possibly controversial problem. Georgia law authorizes a county to accept land from private persons, provided that “such land is suitable for present or future public road purposes.” (1) Private roads may become county roads through purchase or by prescription when it has exercised unlimited public use for the preceding seven years or more.(2) Acquisition can also by be adverse possession.(3) Problems and Solutions for Counties to Consider “Both dedication and acceptance may be express or implied as long as a clear intent is manifested.” (7) Dedicating Land for Public Use The historic requirements for dedication to public use are, one, the owner’s intention to dedicate and, two, acceptance of the dedication by the public.(4) The intention of an owner to dedicate may be evidenced by writing, orally, inferred from the owner’s acts or implied from public use.(5) To complete a dedication, there must be not only an offer to dedicate, but also an acceptance, either Subdivision Plat Issues Approving subdivision plats containing offers of dedication do not constitute acceptance, (8) but can raise a presumption of intent. Courts have held recording a subdivision plat showing areas set apart for public use raises a presumption of intent to dedicate to the public. (9) To complete a dedication for public use, Road Maintenance May Imply Acceptance Property acceptance will be implied when roads are maintained using tax funds. (12) That may be the case, even when there has been an extensive gap in maintenance. (13) If a private road is COUNTIES & THE LAW continued on page 32 MAY/JUNE 2012 31

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Georgia County Government - May/June 2012

President’s Message
In Memoriam
Director’s Desk
An Inside Look at Criminal Justice Reform
Taylor County: Strongly Rooted in an Agricultural Economy with Expectations for Growth
ACCG Annual Meeting Highlights
How Counties Can Stay on Top with an Uncertainty in Federal Funding
A More Level Playing Field for the 2012 LOST Renegotiations
Counties & the Law: Road Acquisition and Abandonment
Preferred Partner News: Georgia United Credit Union Now Welcomes County Employees
Preferred Partner News: How M2M Technology is Poising Local Government for Growth
News & Notes
Index of Advertisers

Georgia County Government - May/June 2012