Road Woes!

Published 5:12 pm Tuesday, April 25, 2023

Getting your Trinity Audio player ready...

HENRICO – An elderly couple here continues to seek answers to a problem they have faced since 2004…how to reach their home without getting stuck in the mud.

Floyd Joiner, an 81-year-old veteran of the Vietnam War, and his 78-year-old wife, Dorothy, purchased property in a subdivision and built a home on Spring Garden Lane in 2004. Now, nearly 20 years later, the narrow dirt path that leads to their residence is often impassable due to periods of wet weather.

The condition of that private road, which the Joiners say continues to deteriorate over time, poses problems for service providers. In a letter dated Sept. 19, 2005, an official with the Roanoke-Wildwood Volunteer Fire Department noted that the “road is inadequate in width and probably in base. Apparatus responding to calls on that road will have to proceed with caution….the [road’s] shoulders would not support the apparatus weight. [The] department will respond to emergencies on Spring Garden Lane; however, the actual location, weather, and traffic conditions could lengthen our response time.”

The U.S. Postal Service also cited the bad condition of Spring Garden Lane as the reason they denied a request made by the Joiners in 2005 for home delivered mail.

“This private, single-lane, gravel road is unserviceable due to serious erosion and lack of maintenance. It therefore creates a danger for postal workers who would have to travel the unsafe and hazardous road,” wrote a Postal Service official in an Oct. 7, 2005 letter to the Joiners.

Additionally, the homeowners were surprised to learn that there were no public water lines servicing Spring Garden Lane at the time they purchased the property. That issue was eventually remedied by placing a water line to the home via a right-of-way from the adjoining Butler Drive, which is a paved road.

Joiner said that right-of-way, which is cut through a wooded area, is where he must roll out his trash containers for weekly pick-up along Butler Drive rather than from Spring Garden Lane.

“We’ve been paying taxes to the county all these years and have to use alternate measures just to have basic services such as trash collection,” Joiner told the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. “The road is so bad that the trash truck can’t use it.”

The husband and wife said they have repeatedly met with county officials regarding the road, even as far back as August of 2004.

“According to the land surveying documents filed with and recorded by the county, Spring Garden Lane was supposed to have been constructed as a 60-foot wide private road,” said Mrs. Joiner, who provided a copy of one such document – signed in February of 2002 by a land surveyor, the subdivision’s developer, and the Northampton County Review Officer – that mapped the road as a “60 foot right of way (private road) with a rocked surface.”

Mrs. Joiner added that she and her husband relied on the accuracy of those official records and signed a Memorandum of Road Maintenance document in 2004 in which they agreed to “maintain said road in good and passable condition.”

However, Mrs. Joiner noted that in the same year (2004), the Northampton County Land Use Administrator noted, in a letter, that Spring Garden Lane appeared to be 15 feet in width and there was evidence of soil erosion.

“To this day, county records incorrectly represent Spring Garden Lane as meeting the specifications of the approved drawings,” Mrs. Joiner said.

“In short, my wife and I, as well as our heirs and successors, have a legal obligation to maintain a road in good and passable condition which was never constructed in good and passable condition in the first place,” stressed Mr. Joiner.

He added that the documents from the county in 2004 and from the fire department and post office officials in 2005 all address problems with the road at that time, thus backing up his claim that Spring Garden Lane was never really in “good and passable condition” from the outset.

When asked if the other homeowners on Spring Garden Lane signed the same Memorandum of Road Maintenance document, he answered, “not to my knowledge.”

Spring Garden Lane is approximately one mile long. The Memorandum of Road Maintenance document, a copy of which was provided to this newspaper, does not specify if the maintenance is limited only to the front width of the Joiner’s lot or the entire length of the road.

“I totally understand that Northampton County does not build or maintain roads,” Mr. Joiner stated. “But I also know that the county can and must hold the developer of Spring Garden Estates accountable for this shameful and dangerous road condition that has been allowed to persist for nearly 20 years.”

The Joiners say they are denied critical services due to the condition of the road.

“Sadly, the condition of this road is worse than the ones I patrolled while serving in Vietnam,” Mr. Joiner said. “My wife and I have been fighting this fight for a long time. As tax-paying senior citizens living in this county, we deserve and need the critical services that we pay for with our taxes. We want answers, support, accountability, fairness, and the peace of mind that comes with knowing we can get those services if the road was safe enough for fire trucks and other emergency vehicles to use.”

In a letter to the Joiners dated Feb. 15, 2023, a Northampton official said, “the county empathizes with your complaints as to its [Spring Garden Lane] poor condition. The County’s position is that your dispute is altogether a private matter with the developer of Spring Garden Lane Subdivision.”

The county’s letter went on to say there are processes by which private land can be conveyed and adopted by NCDOT that will allow the state to assume responsibility for the upkeep of the road.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

email author More by Cal