Some roads can cause a winter of discontent


James E. Talley had no idea how important it was for his street to be owned by the city until last winter, when snowstorms left several feet of snow on the street in front of his house in Annapolis and no plows came to clear it.

Snowed in, Talley called city officials and discovered that Chatham Lane, the street he'd been living on since 1988, was out of the loop for city snowplows.

The privately owned street was not city property, Annapolis officials told him.

As residents brace for winter, the city is preparing its snow emergency plans. And as it does every year, the city has released a list of 80 county, state or privately owned streets within city limits that will not be plowed by city crews.

"We publish the list every year," said John E. C. Patmore, director of the city Public Works Department. "But every year, we get hundreds of calls during the snowstorm complaining about their unplowed streets.

"All we can tell them is that the city doesn't own their street, so we can't do anything about it."

Although some of the streets are plowed by the county or the state, many residents of private streets hire contractors.

"I guess we don't really need the city," said Larry Dennis, a resident of Stonecreek Road, which is owned by a homeowners association. "Our private contractors take care of things pretty well, and they even shovel the sidewalks. The city won't do that."

But people such as Talley, who spent months of research to prove Chatham Lane is city property, said it goes beyond snowplowing.

"My big contention was that if our street needed repair work, how would homeowners like myself pay for it?" Talley said.

It's also expensive to turn private roads over to the city if they aren't up to city standards. Owners must hire someone to fix streets to the right specifications.

"The problem here is that some of the developers never completed their requirements to turn their street over to the city after they finished their development," said Alderman Samuel Gilmer, a Ward 3 Democrat. "They leave these poor residents in the lurch."

For about six months, Talley met with city officials, researched city council records and wrote several letters. In the end, his street was turned over to the city in the summer. He discovered that the council adopted a resolution in 1978 to approve the plat for his subdivision with plans to take over the street.

"It was frustrating," Talley said. "But it's something that can't be faulted on the current administration because it's just an oversight from the past city officials and developers. We were lucky to be able to clear up the confusion."

Don Hopkins and his business neighbors on Moreland Parkway were not so fortunate. They are still wondering who owns their street, which runs through an industrial park. It isn't the city, officials say.

Years of wear and tear have left the road surface in poor shape with several potholes, dips and cracks. Meanwhile, all Hopkins and his Annapolis Lock & Key Service staff can do is hope for a mild winter. Last winter, Moreland Parkway was never plowed, which made for difficult driving.

"We just waited for the snow to melt," said Hopkins, owner of the store. "Our shop is in a valley, so it was a disaster for our glass trucks to go up and down the hill. It was treacherous driving, but there's nothing we can do since nobody owns the street, it seems."

Pub Date: 12/30/96

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