Chelan County Looking To Upgrade Unpaved Roads Seeing Growth
Chelan County commissioners are dealing with how to handle improvements to unpaved roads.
There's been a massive surge in development on certain unpaved roads since the county code changed to allow building along the roads in 2009.
Commissioner Tiffany Gering says people who build homes on the roadways, which are also known as primitive roads, do not realize there's no funding source to improve or pave them.
"I field so many complaints about primitive roads and people that don't understand that there's no funding to be able to improve these roads," said Gering.
State law gives county commissioners discretion over when a primitive road needs to be improved.
Chelan County commissioners have not decided how they'll handle any improvements moving forward.
The county has the option of forming a road improvement district when a primitive road is in need of upgrades. Under the arrangement, the county would finance the improvements through a method such as a bond sale and later bill the landowners in the area based on the assessed value of their property.
Public Works Director Eric Pierson told commissioners at a Monday morning meeting that the county would have to pick up the tab for most of the improvement costs because assessed property values wouldn't increase enough to cover the expense.
In 2022, the county spent $67,123 on improvements to Union Valley Road north of Chelan when total county taxes collected for road funding from property owners there was about $27,000.
Plus, property owners normally object to having a road improvement district imposed on them, thinking their property taxes would already cover any costs.
Under state law, a road qualifies as primitive if it is unpaved and has fewer than 180 vehicles traveling over it on average per day.
Pierson says primitive roads range from two tracks to 20 feet wide and can be gravel or dirt.
He said it would range from $1million-$2 million to upgrade some of the roads.
Two of the roads most often mentioned as being in immediate need of improvement are Union Valley Road and Burch Mountain north of Sunnyslope.
Pierson said county staff are in the process of addressing the need for improvements to primitive roads.
"In the meantime, recognize that, true there are different levels of maintenance we do on certain primitive roads," Pierson said. "A lot of it has to do with the use of it, as well as the ease of providing that maintenance."
He said some primitive roads that connect to forest service roads can get funding through the Federal Lands Access Program, but the money available would still be far short of covering costs of improvements.