Denny McKeever and four of his neighbors along a portion of Sterling Drive on James Island were relieved when they learned that they had the option of making the dirt road private under Charleston County's new non-standard road program.
The five property owners agreed that they were willing to forgo county maintenance of the road, a fair trade, they thought, for more privacy.
The road, along with eight others, came up for final approval from County Council last month. But Councilman Joe Qualey, a James Island resident, asked that it be pulled from the approval list for further consideration. The other eight roads were approved.
County Council has not set a date to consider the future of Sterling Drive.
McKeever said a lot of people use the road as a shortcut to Melton Peter Demetre Park and the James Island Yacht Club, of which Qualey is a member. And all those cars and trucks stir up a lot of dust and form ruts in the road after a hard rain, he said. "There's a lot of traffic for a road that's not set up for that kind of load."
Qualey said he lives near the road and is certain many people in the neighborhood use it. "Some people use it for the yacht club, and others do not. The fact is it's a road and people use it."
McKeever has made other attempts to make the road private, Qualey said, but he doesn't think that's good for the neighborhood, and he's not sure the county can do it.
The county launched the non-standard road program in 2011. It applies to nearly 300 rural dirt roads formerly known as community roads, which the county had minimally maintained for at least 20 years. It was unclear whether many of those roads were public or private, and the county decided to clear up their status.
Each road has its own complex history and set of legal issues, county staffers have said, and the process is taking longer than expected.
So far, 52 of 287 roads eligible for the non-standard road program have been converted to public roads, county officials said. Those roads will be maintained better than they were before.
County Council has given approval for at least 10 roads that have opted to become private. Those roads no longer will be maintained by the county.
County administrator Kurt Taylor said that when property owners decide to make their roads private, "it's not a public a thoroughfare anymore." But that doesn't mean the road is closed, he said.
There could be nearby property owners who have been using the road for many years, and they could have a legal right to continue using it. Those issues are beyond the county's jurisdiction, he said.
Sterling Drive is in the town of James Island, Taylor said. The county does road maintenance for the town, he said, but it would be up to the town to officially close a road.
McKeever said he and his neighbors aren't trying to inconvenience anybody. There are other ways to get around the area without using Sterling Drive, and they would like to live along a quieter, cleaner street. Now, he said, "it's dirt and dust and trucks at 2 in the morning."
Reach Diane Knich at 843-937-5491 or on Twitter at @dianeknich.
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