With no active HOA, who should pay for bridge repair on private road?

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


What will it take to rebuild safe access to a private 9-home community with no active homeowners’ association? It’s a neighborhood problem that has been brewing for at least 15 years.

The issue: for decades, nine secluded properties on the northern end of East River Road were served by a private road crossed by Baker’s Creek Bridge.

But 4 years ago, when it developed gaping holes, the city deemed the bridge unsafe. The century-old structure was closed, and never repaired. Now Baker’s Creek Bridge is badly in need of replacement.


The controversy

According to several reports reviewed by IAC, the bridge is physically located on three properties, but connects to a private road that serves 9 different homes.

For more than a decade, property owners have been fighting over who should pay to rebuild Baker’s Creek Bridge — at an estimated cost of up to $250,000.

Homeowners of three of the nine properties have refused to share the cost of replacing the bridge. They say they either don’t own it or use it.

Although the small neighborhood used to have an HOA, it was disbanded years ago, according to several homeowners. Today, homeowners are stuck with a private road and bridge, and no money in reserve to pay for replacement.


The muddy emergency access road

After the city shut down primary bridge access to their homes, owners began using an emergency access road that extends from the end of West Northwood Drive cul-de-sac.

Watch this News 5 video, filmed in December 2018, to see the messy, muddy emergency access road. It’s a dirt road filled with craters.

City leaders had been hoping that the inconvenient road access would prompt homeowners to revive their long-defunct HOA, collect money, and fix their bridge.  Earlier this year, City Council even offered partial financial assistance with the project.

However, in order to get financial help, the HOA would have to reorganize and hire a contractor to do the work. Then the city would set up a 20-year property tax assessment to recoup the full cost of rebuilding Baker’s Creek bridge.

Related: Across the U.S., cities and towns are turning to special tax districts to fund repair of private infrastructure.

But three homeowners wouldn’t agree to pay for it. And they weren’t interested in starting up their HOA again either.


City threatens to close access road

When the East River Road owners didn’t come up with a signed contract, the city withdrew its offer, and gave the neighbors an ultimatum — either come up with a plan to fix Baker’s Creek Bridge, or the city will shut down the emergency access road on June 14.

It was a drastic move.

That prompted owners of 6 homes to sue the city to keep the access road open. And, so far, the court agrees that the city has a duty to keep the access road open.

After all, aren’t tax dollars supposed to pay for public services that ensure safety of its residents?


Bridge alternatives?

Moving forward, East River Road homeowners would like the city and their neighbors on West Northwood Road to consider to alternatives that would benefit all nine properties.

Instead of spending up to $250,000 rebuilding Baker’s Creek Bridge, another option would be to avoid the creek and create a new public access road.

An even less expensive option would be to maintain and upgrade the current muddy, crater-filled access road.

The latter option might upset owners on the West Northwood Road cul-de-sac. They have already complained about increased traffic and safety concerns for their children.

In the meantime, one of the three holdout owners has reportedly agreed to contribute to the cost of a solution.

Well, it’s a wee bit of progress. One holdout down. Two more to go.

Whatever the ultimate solution, it’s clear that the city of Olmsted Falls will have to play an active role. They cannot simply dump the problem on private property owners.

It’s still unclear who will pay for a safe access road, and how much it will cost taxpayers.

Hopefully, the city won’t force an HOA on property owners who abandoned it many years ago.

The saga continues. ♦


News Sources:

East River Road homeowners sue city to keep Olmsted Falls access road open
Updated 11:54 AM; Today 8:25 AM
By John Benson, special to cleveland.com

Latest chapter in Baker’s Creek bridge saga: Olmsted Falls set to close access road; East River Road homeowners debate replacement bridge (OH)
Updated Jun 12, 2019; Posted Jun 12, 2019

Olmsted Falls City Council seeks Baker’s Creek bridge solution
Updated Mar 4, 2019; Posted Mar 4, 2019 | By John Benson, special to cleveland.com

Neighbors, Olmsted Falls disagree over who should pay to fix a bridge on private property
Posted: 6:49 AM, Dec 07, 2018 Updated: 7:18 PM, Dec 07, 2018
Kevin Barry, News 5 Cleveland (Video)

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