A dilemma involving private streets on both sides of the Osage Beach post office has propelled the city to take a hard look at how it deals with private streets.

A dilemma involving private streets on both sides of the Osage Beach post office has propelled the city to take a hard look at how it deals with private streets.

For months, the city has discussed how to motivate owners of the private streets leading to the PO to at least fix potholes that plague the thousands of drivers who go in and out of the parking lot. Best-case scenario, city officials agree, is to convince the adjacent owners to overlay the streets allow the Osage Beach Road District to make the repairs.

A lone holdout owner on the north side of the posts office has thwarted the city's negotiations. The city is helpless to use city funds and equipment to repair private streets.

"When the (Osage Beach) Special Road District steps up to fix that road and then have it turned over to the city, and then to have a property owner refuse to let that be done? That's a fact of life," Mayor John Olivarri said.

Twenty-one percent of roads within the city limits are privately owned. That means they either do not meet city design standards, or owners have not asked that qualifying roads be deeded to the city. Some roads would be too difficult to maintain because of the lake's unusual typography, city officials say.

Mayor John Olivarri noted at a recent board of aldermen workshop that the city would like to bring more private roads into the city's street inventory, but several factors prevent that from happening. One of the restrictions is the width of right-of-way required for city streets.

Alderman Jeff Bethurem proposed a set of changes to the city's ordinance in March, but no action has been taken. His idea would be that all private roads that connect to a city-owned street must have a concrete curb and gutter and a concrete approach. He also suggested that if a private road weren’t maintained in working order, the city would have the authority to make the repairs and charge those casts back to the property owner or owners. 

But Public Works Director Nick Edelman said some private streets have multiple owners -- possibly some unaware they are owners -- and getting a commitment from the required 95 percent of the owners would be nearly impossible. For example, some private roads that tie into Dude Ranch Road are lost in generations of estates.

Typically, new roads are built to the city's design standards. A developer has the option of deeding the street to the city if it meets certain guidelines, but there is nothing in the city code that requires new streets to be handed over. Bethurem would like it mandated that all new streets be deeded to the city within one year of completion -- if they meet basic standards.

As aldermen and staff continued to debate the issue of improving private streets and making them part of the city's inventory, and how to motivate adjacent property owners, City Attorney Ed Rucker threw caution to the wind.

"I want to be real clear here, do not confuse the easy remedy of making a private property owner with the weeds on his lawn where you can put a lien their property with the road issue, and the fact is a lien isn't effective until the property transfers," he explained.

Alderman Rucker said there are many roads in the city that don't meet city standards where property owners would like to deed their roads to the city. Unless the city lowers its design standards for existing streets, there's little that can be done to solve the problem. But that might set a precedent.

"Where do we draw the line?" Olivarri asked.

"I don't know. That's where the engineer needs to get involved," Rucker said.

Edelman said there are two issues to consider: The width of the pavement and the width of the right-of-way.

"If you want to start looking at narrowing the right of way, that's something we can look at," Edelman said.

Utility placement and access could be impacted by narrowing the right of way, something that concerns him and City Attorney Rucker who said placing utilities too close together increases the risk of damage. Rucker suggested developing a step-by-step process that protects the city and residents.

"I don't want to be in a position of applying different standards to different roads. We need a logical, thought-thru process of why we receive a road," Rucker said.

Olivarri said the private road issue is ongoing, and isn't as high a priority as others. He asked Edelman and City Attorney Rucker to review the options and develop some ideas by the end of January.