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Hills Residents Ask for Cul-de-sac Maintenance

A representative for the association for 161 homes in The Hills in Basking Ridge says township has responsibility for cul-de-sacs.

Are they public roads or driveways?

The treasurer of the Liberty Ridge Neighborhood Association in The Hills, and two other residents, on Tuesday night urged the to take on the responsibility for snow plowing, and in other ways maintaining, 30 cul-de-sacs off which driveways lead to 161 homes.

Although no formal decision was made at Tuesday's meeting, the township committee, and officials, gave little indication that Bernards Township would agree to begin maintaining the cul-de-sac circles on such streets as Hansom Road, Honeyman Road and Liberty Ridge Road.

Each cul-de-sac serves multiple residences, and are owned by the association, rather than homeowners, said Jonathan Cloud, the association's treasurer. He said the residents pay the same taxes as elsewhere in town, without the same service.

Township Administrator Bruce McArthur said that Planning Board minutes from the 1990s show that the cul-de-sacs were never considered to be public roadways.

"These are always referred to as multi-family driveways," he said.

Moreover, the roads were never brought up to public standards and turned over to the municipality, as is standard with roadways built by developers, McArthur said. He said the clustering of homes around the cul-de-sacs was a deliberate design to help create more open space in The Hills.

Officials also said that the 18-foot wide entrance to the circles is narrower than a standard 30-foot roadway. Township Mayor Mary Pavlini said that the narrower than acceptable entry indicates the cul-de-sacs were never meant to be public roadways. She and others added the entrances are too narrow for large department of public works trucks with snowplows.

Joe Sordillo, the attorney at Tuesday's meeting, said township attorney John Belardo reiterated past advisement that that the cul-de-sacs had not been intended as public roadways.

But Cloud said during the meeting, afterward and in a letter to the Township Committee that the deal with the developer of The Hills regarding the cul-de-sacs was made without the input of residents.

"According to the township there was an agreement with the developer (in which, obviously, neither the residents nor the Board of Trustees had any say), under which the Township has repeatedly denied all responsibility for maintenance, clearing or upkeep," said Cloud's letter, dated July 25, which was attached to Tuesday night's agenda.

During the meeting, Cloud said it costs the association between $50,000 to $70,000 annually to clear snow from the 30 paved circles.

"If the town reached what amounts to a sweetheart deal with the developer that leaves the residents as a disadvantage, they [the municipality] should come forward," he added following the meeting.

"If the residents will support it, we will consider additional steps," Cloud said after the meeting.

He said in his letter that residents had not been provided with documentation from the Planning Board hearings.

"All through the [Planning Board meeting] minutes, they referred to them as driveways," Sordillo said of the cul-de-sacs. However, he said that while documentation may not be in "black and white," the fact that the cul-de-sacs were never dedicated to the township indicates they were never meant to be public property.

McArthur later added that those roadways in The Hills, behind and beyond Mount Prospect School, have streetlights that cost more to maintain since they are not the same as others throughout the township kept up by Jersey Central Power & Light. There are more fire hydrants in The Hills for which the township also must pay a fee, he said.

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Liz August 15, 2012 at 04:23 PM
No they don't, it is paid for in snow removal fees along with maintenance fees. As well as paying property taxes like everyone else.
Jonathan Cloud (Treasurer, Liberty Ridge) August 15, 2012 at 04:46 PM
People in other associations may be surprised to learn that there is a state law — the Municipal Services Act, also known as the Kelly Law — which is supposed to require towns to reimbursed homeowner associations for costs that would otherwise be paid for by the municipality for services provided to everyone else in the community. Residents of the Hills, including our neighborhood, pay the same tax rates as everyone else in town — but we pay more for sewage treatment, contract for our own trash removal, pay for our own snow removal and re-paving, etc. This is simply not fair. We're not asking for special treatment, just the same services as others get. And cul-de-sacs that serve 4-6 homes are *not* driveways, no matter what the town wants to call them. We all have driveways, and shovel them, so we know that the circles are shared roadways that just happen to belong to the Association. And this is exactly what the Kelly Law is for.
Liz August 15, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I agree with you. I think others know they just choose to ignore it.
n August 15, 2012 at 10:35 PM
I live in a single family house & I pay for my own trash pick up & I pay for sewage treatment. When you decided to buy a condo, you should've done your research first on the annual costs that you are responsible to pay for. You lost the argument as soon as it was stated that the width of the street didn't meet the standard 30 foot width.
Laura August 16, 2012 at 02:23 AM
So let me get this straight-you folks bought up all these clustered houses that were allowed to be built on shared driveways with the proviso that these shared driveways would be your responsibility, not the rest of the taxpayers, and now you're trying to renege? Given the tax burden on the rest of the town, especially by the resulting increased school costs for that dense development, that's a small price to pay, and one you knew about from the outset.

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