Comanche County Commissioners have started the process of resolving questions about who maintains roads in county subdivisions.
The issue surfaced earlier this year when residents and developers asked commissioners about what had been a long-standing policy: developers who build subdivisions outside the corporate city limits expect to have their roads accepted and maintained by the county if those roads were built to specific county criteria.
But District 1 Commissioner John O’Brien said the agreement equated to a “gentleman’s handshake,” with no set policy to follow. He and District 3 Commissioner Josh Powers — who were sworn into office Dec. 30, 2022 — want a uniform policy that applies the same criteria across the county. That policy affects O’Brien and Powers, who control the unincorporated areas of Comanche County. Central District Commissioner Johnny Owens’ area is confined to Lawton, where building codes are controlled by the City of Lawton.
Commissioners settled part of the problem earlier this week by approving resolutions that formally accepted roads within already-platted subdivisions that were built as far back as 2006. There’s still a problem with housing additions under development now, as well as those that will be built in the future, O’Brien said, adding that is why he believes a uniform policy still is important.
“Comanche County has a lot of development,” he said, of subdivisions already under way and others being planned because of an expanding population and more people who are opting to live in the county’s unincorporated areas.
O’Brien said he knows of six subdivisions “under way” in his eastern district, which is why he wants formal documentation in place to guide the road dedication process. That includes resolutions specifying the county is accepting those roads and will be responsible for the oil and chip overlay that keeps them vehicle-friendly. He said while the roads in those six subdivisions equate to only 4 miles total, there still is an expense associated with county maintenance and a finite number of county dollars to cover costs.
Setting clear expectations and setting documents for developers who must build to county specifications is important, which is why that policy development process will continue, he said.
“It’s good business,” O’Brien said, adding that setting clear guidelines for everyone building in the county means “no gray area.”
In addition to building to specifications, O’Brien said county officials also must look at requirements such as five-year maintenance bonds to ensure the county’s liability is limited when inferior roads are presented.
“We don’t do that,” O’Brien said of existing road dedication practice.