Ordinance makes good sense

Posted: Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Now and again, the folks we elect get to do something that makes good sense from every point of view. Road Ordinance 2007-10 is an example.

This ordinance would require developers to construct roads up to borough and state standards and roads built in wetlands or across streams to be engineered so they won’t wash out in a flood or prevent salmon from getting to spawning or rearing habitat.

Many live here because of salmon. As more people move to the peninsula and more property is developed, we can’t pretend we can do anything we want to the ecosystem and that the salmon will keep coming back.

When improper culverts, bridges or ditches interfere with water quality and/or salmon habitat, it is everyone’s problem. It is irresponsible to continue to allow such practices.

Developers might argue it would cost more to put in proper roads, and that’s true. But it is also true those costs would be passed on to those who buy the subdivided property, and developers wouldn’t lose a penny. Isn’t that what fair-market capitalism is all about?

Some developers are opposed to having to provide quality access roads leading to their subdivisions, but that is part of the legitimate cost of doing business. Once again, these costs would (and should) become part of the fair-market price and passed to the buyer. If the demand for lots isn’t high enough to justify correct development, perhaps we don’t need more lots right now. It’s how American capitalism works. It is also much cheaper to put proper roads in the first time than to come back later and redo it.

Perhaps there’s a reasonable argument that this ordinance might price some folks out of the real estate market. If so, then we should address it as a separate issue. I can envision some limited, common sense solutions that might be provided to families truly in need, but that debate deserves a public hearing.

Those living on substandard roads know the problems the absence of an ordinance like 2007-10 has created. It’s easy to sympathize with families in these subdivisions, but should we be encouraging future government handouts by bailing out those who choose to live in these areas? That’s what we’re doing now.

For those roads to get fixed, at least 70 percent of the neighbors have to agree to pay for part of the repairs, with the borough subsidizing up to 70 percent of the balance.

Despite the financial assistance, owners then become burdened with enormous restoration bills and too often the price for upgrading is too high to afford.

Many roads don’t get repaired because more than 30 percent of the residents are unable or unwilling to share the cost. When owners do agree, the rest of us, by way of the borough, end up subsidizing the construction.

If we’re serious about reducing borough expenditures, passing Ordinance 2007-10 will save us all money, as we will have fewer roads needing extensive repairs.

JP Bennett

Soldotna



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