Neighbors of Lebanon Estates are crying foul after traffic barricades and “no left turn” signs were illegally removed from the subdivision’s north entrance last week.
The dust-up over neighborhood access at the intersection of Road 25 and north N.8 Loop Road is a continuation of contested road-safety issues debated at county hearings when approval was sought for the subdivision in 2006.
A resident of the subdivision, Richard Eaton, told the Cortez Journal that the “concrete barriers were a mess and were cleaned up because it is private property.”
Eaton denied participating in the removal, and said the “right turn only” and “no left-turn” signs are being stored in a garage and will be “donated to the county.”
“We decided they were not needed anymore,” he said.
Eaton said he believes that permission was granted to remove the traffic controls by a “county commissioner during a personal conversation at a coffee shop.”
However, county planning officials said removing the structure and the signage violates the stipulations of the subdivision’s regulations. They added that a more formal meeting with the county commission is required.
“The traffic controls there are a condition of the subdivision plan, and they cannot be changed without coming back to the county commission to consider an alternative plan,” which was not done, said planning director Susan Carver.
“It would have to be at least a 2-1 vote for a change to be approved.”
She said the subdivision has been an ongoing contentious issue, a situation that may trigger a public hearing if an amendment is sought.
“I don’t want people to think they can make changes to county regulations without coming to the board,” Carver said. “A solution might be to put it back and then come to the commissioners to try and remedy the situation, because they are open to that.”
According to the land use code, amended plots require commission approval and agreements signed by all owners in the subdivision.
Lebanon Estates allows for 19 homes to be built on 65 acres.
Access is via N.8 Loop Road, a private, U-shaped street that connects to Road 25 (Lebanon Road) at two locations.
LEFT TURNS, U-TURNS
The southern entrance offers normal access and egress from any direction. But according to county planning assistant LeeAnn Milligan, the northern intersection did not meet the minimum 300-foot sight distance requirement because of a dipping curve in the road looking north.
A firsthand look shows that while waiting at the intersection and looking north on Road 25, smaller cars and motorcycles traveling southbound briefly disappear from view as they drop into the dip in the road.
In 2006, a different county commission voted to approve the subdivision but to mitigate the safety issue. Commissioners then stipulated that the access be limited to “right entrance, right exit only.” Signs prohibiting left turns were required, as well as a stop sign.
Concrete bumpers in the shape of a triangle divided two sweep lanes: one for leaving the subdivision northbound to the right, and the other for drivers entering from the south as they make a right turn. The concrete island structure, the “right turn only” sign on N.8 Loop Road, and the “no left turn” sign on Road 25 for southbound traffic were meant to dissuade left turns out of and into the subdivision.
But the signs have largely been ignored, and now are missing.
“Those are the most controversial types of subdivision access,” says Dean Roundtree, county road and bridge superintendent, because of the inconvenience and “safety issue of people doing U-turns.”
Southbound drivers on Road 25 wanting to use the northern entrance to Lebanon Estates are not supposed to turn left, thereby coercing drivers to execute a U-turn in order to make a right turn into the neighborhood at that entrance.
Those exiting the subdivision wanting to drive south on Road 25 are forced to turn right, head north, and then make a U-turn. That was causing problems, said nearby resident Jackie Randall. “People are putting signs up in their driveways saying no U-turns.”
She said the “no left turn signs” were put in place due to safety concerns of a “blind corner there. We’re trying to get to the bottom of who took them out. Who will be to blame when someone gets hurt or killed there from someone turning left?”
The developer at the time, Jim Candelaria, who owns a lot in the subdivision, disagreed with the decision to require the traffic controls there. But he emphasized that he did not remove the concrete structure or traffic signs.
“They just (required the no-left hand turn) to appease the neighbors who fought the subdivision tooth and nail the whole way. I offered to sell the land to them, but they refused,” he said.
He said a traffic control study he paid for showed that prohibiting the left-hand turn was not necessary, and he felt that limiting access and egress there was overkill.
“The intersection was left up to the county and they wanted it but did not want to maintain it. It was broken up by snowplows and really decrepit.”
Candelaria said he approached the commissioners about dropping the requirement in 2008, but his request was denied.
Sheriff Dennis Spruell said he was aware of the situation, but said it was a civil matter between the commissioners and the subdivision. The sheriff department has no enforcement powers for signs on private roads, he said, but removing a traffic sign on a county road would be considered public property theft, or vandalism.
“If the commissioners came to me and said the sign on the county road was illegally taken down, then we would have something to talk about,” Spruell said.
In 2007, the Colorado State Patrol expressed concern about the intersection, writing in a letter to the county that it is confusing for drivers and “may cause a traffic hazard.”
County lawyers and commissioners have been made aware of the situation, Carver said, and it would be addressed at Monday’s regular meeting during the road report.