By Myrna Trauntvein
Juab County Commissioners agreed to amend the land use code by one word.
Lynn Ingram, county road superintendent, said that the word “improved” needed to be added to the land use code.
“If someone were to build out in the middle of nowhere, what would we do then?” asked Ingram.
Fire, EMS and police all needed to have access to a property and the one way to do that was to require that all buildings have access to an improved road.
Ingram said that there are four kinds of roads: paved, improved, unimproved and primitive. Class A roads are the major paved highways throughout the state. They do not include the Interstate freeways.
Class B roads are hard surface, usually graded, dirt roads. Utah’s west desert is laced with an intricate pattern of dirt roads maintained by individual counties.
Glenn Greenhalgh, former county planning director, requested that the county attorney’s office look at the possible amendment after the planning commission and Ingram reviewed the need for a change.
“We added a definition,” said Ryan Peters, county attorney.
The county planning commission received a request to modify a section of the land use ordinance, said Peters.
The planning commission held the required public hearing after the required notice, he said. At that hearing, the commission considered relevant evidence and opinion and recommended to the commission that the change be made.
The word “improved” was added to the lot standards language.
“Except for cluster subdivisions, and as otherwise provided in this ordinance, every lot, existing or intended to be created, shall have such area, width and depth as is required by this ordinance for the zone district in which such lot is located and shall have frontage upon a dedicated improved Class B or better road before a building permit may be issued,” reads the ordinance addition.
Also added is the definition of an improved road as: “For purposes of the section, ‘Improved Class B Road’ has the same meaning as ‘Gravel Road’ located in Utah Code . . . of the Juab County Road Standards.”
“You have to note,” Peters said, “that all of you commissioners were all in favor, each of you individually.”
After the ordinance amendment was read into the county record, commissioners voted unanimously to adopt the changes.
“Those seeking building permits in the county will now have to have access to an improved road,” said Byron Woodland, commission chairman.
The county has the right to maintain Class B roads, but also has the responsibility to see that they are passable because they are funded by the Utah Department of Transportation. Class B roads are generally 66 feet wide.
Class C roads are paved secondary roads. Counties are funded by UDOT to keep them open and repaired.
Class D roads are the trails open to ATVs and UTVs. These are also funded by UDOT and fall under the jurisdiction of county authority.
As a rule, they are not maintained, but improvements are made by volunteer groups in conjunction with Utah State Parks, federal agencies, and the counties responsible. These roads are old mining roads, logging roads and hunting trails.
The federal government manages land in Utah through the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management. These are public lands managed by federal agencies. While management is their responsibility, they do not own the right of way on established road ways.
“Juab County has worked to maintain the right to our RS2477 roads,” said Woodland.
Access is the responsibility of the county.
While a land owner may own the land, he doesn’t own the public access routes. If a person buys land that features a road that has seen public use for at least 10 years, he can’t close that road. The access is owned by the county.
He can put a gate across the road, but he can’t lock it. To do so is a Class B misdemeanor that carries a $1,000 fine and up to a year in jail.
Anyone coming across a locked gate on a public road has a responsibility to notify the county sheriff who has enforcement authority.
A person who does not close a gate in this situation is subject to the same penalty because it may allow cattle to roam outside the private property.
The land owner can deny access to his land on either side of the road with no trespassing signs facing the road, but he can’t deny access to the road itself. On a public road, the land owner has no responsibility in the case of an accident and can’t be sued.