By KRIS REILLY
More than a few Lucerne Valley residents have difficulty getting vehicles in and out of their own driveways. If they want to change that, forming a special road district may be their only option.
A larger-than-normal crowd showed up at the July 24 meeting of the Lucerne Valley Municipal Advisory Council. Many of those who attended live on dirt roads which are not maintained by San Bernardino County.
Residents of the eastern Lucerne Valley neighborhood known as the Russell Tract have been hit hard by flooding over the last two years. Some of the roads were rendered impassable by sand and ruts, but the county will not repair roads which are not part of its county maintenance system.
Retired Air Force Lt. Col. Ray Clark has lived in the Russell Tract for 35 years. After the flooding, he paid a contractor several hundred dollars to bulldoze and grade his road, with some help from other residents. He then spent another $300 on a metal device which he periodically drags on the road with his pickup.
He said his half-mile stretch of Palomar Trail is passable “because I keep it that way my personal self. There is some heavy sand on it, but it’s good enough to drive.”
Special Districts Supervisor Jeffery Rigney and two of his colleagues explained the county maintenance system to the crowd. Decades ago, the county determined which roads it would and would not maintain. Some dirt roads were grandfathered into the system, and some were left out.
For a road to get into the system now, it must be paved and must meet certain length requirements. County crews and contractors are strictly forbidden from working on non-maintained roads.
Flood control basins in the Cushenbury Creek area could prevent flooding, but that project could cost $30 million and doesn’t appear likely to happen anytime soon.
Another option for residents on non-maintained dirt roads would be to form a special road district. Special Districts Regional Manager Pamela Vandervoort explained this process to the audience. Each person within the district would pay an annual tax, and the money would go directly to road maintenance for that area.
Vandervoort presented some hypothetical numbers to show what such a district would cost the land owners. According to the estimates, if the entire town formed a dirt road maintenance district, the bill would be approximately $47 per year and would be paid only by those who live on non-maintained roads. She said the cost for the first year would be approximately three times that because of the initial expense of getting the roads up to snuff.
She stressed that these are only rough estimates and that this plan would only come to pass if the community approved it. A ballot initiative would need to be approved by two thirds of the voters.
“We’re happy to do it but we’re not going to make you do it; it has to go to a vote,” Vandervoort said. “You’d have to pass this as a tax. ... It’s not that it’s impossible, but you would have to do the work. ... You would really have to get on the phone and call your neighbors.”
Vandervoort said the Russell Tract could vote to create its own smaller maintenance district, but the bill would be higher.
“The more people that participate, the lower the cost,” she said.
Clark fears that many residents would not be able to afford the cost of a special district.
“A lot of people live month to month,” he said. “They don’t have any extra money.”
Clark is now 88, and he doesn’t know how much longer he’ll be able to keep maintaining his small section of road.
“I don’t know any other options,” he said, “except to just keep struggling along like I’m doing.”
E-mail Vandervoort at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information on forming a special district.