Road Maintenance Program Options and Maintained Mileage
Road Maintenance Program Options
Unincorporated Nevada County includes approximately 2,800 miles of both public and private roads. The Department of Public Works maintains approximately 562 miles of public roads and an additional 50 miles established under various road maintenance districts including Permanent Road Divisions and County Service Areas. There are a number of programs administered by Public Works for maintaining roads as well as programs on how a private road can be developed into a publicly maintained road.
County Maintained Mileage Road List
Formation of Special Districts
First, you should begin by reading below for options in Nevada County, which pertain to the creation of Private Road Divisions and County Service Areas. If you have further questions regarding their formation process, contact the Department of Public Works.
- County Service Area (CSA)
- Permanent Road Division (PRD)
- Permanent Road Division FAQ's
- Private Road Maintenance
- Community Services District
The County may also maintain roads that are within a "County Service Area" ["CSA"; see Government Code sections 25210.1-25210.90]. Formation must go through the Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCo). A CSA is a special district of the state, but it is a "county dependent special district" because it is governed by the County Board of Supervisors. The formation can occur only in conjunction with the approval of a special tax or parcel charge.
The CSA is appropriate for larger geographic areas than would be covered under a PRD. The road must also be brought up to current road standards.
The County may also maintain roads that are within a "Permanent Road Division" ("PRD") [see Streets and Highways Code sections 1160-1197] but are not within the "county-maintained mileage system". The formation may be initiated by petition of landowners, or by resolution of the County Board of Supervisors. The PRD is most appropriate for limited geographic areas.
In a PRD, road maintenance is funded by the owners benefitting from the road. The formation cannot occur without the approval of a special tax (by a two-thirds vote of registered voters) or parcel charge (by a majority vote of landowners casting ballots weighted according to benefits to parcels). Approval of a special tax follows the requirements of Proposition 218. These revenue measures will contain cost-of-living escalators to ensure continuous adequate funding of routine maintenance and long-term asphalt rehabilitation.
The County will not maintain substandard, unsafe roads. Therefore, roads must also be brought up to current road standards (check with DPW for the criteria applicable to your road). Where roads do not currently meet County standards, the County will consider a PRD formation if the owners agree to an initial, higher tax or charge. These additional revenues, which can be spread up to a 5-year period, will be used by the County to bring the road up to County standards. At that point, the assessments will adjust to reflect only regular maintenance costs, and the County can begin regular maintenance of the road.
A special tax or parcel charge is generally collected through the annual payment of property taxes. The revenue covers all the costs incurred by the County, including maintenance, rehabilitation, engineering, administration, overhead, and liability insurance.
1. Does the County solicit participation in the PRD Program?
No. This program is available to property owners in the unincorporated area of the County. Our primary goal is to provide information so people can decide whether a PRD is an attractive alternative to their road repair and maintenance needs. The County does not profit from these PRDs and the program is expected to be revenue-neutral and self-sustaining, with all costs being born by benefiting properties.
Typically, residents will contact us after hearing about the PRD program either by word of mouth, on the DPW website, or at the Board of Supervisor offices. The Department of Public Works manages the program, and forming a PRD occurs only if a majority of the voting property owners support it by formal ballot.
2. Are the annual road maintenance costs fixed? How long before the estimates can change?
The initial assessment is based on an estimate of current day costs to construct and maintain roads based on County standards and policies. Given the volatile nature of prices for oil and aggregate materials and general inflation, the annual assessment includes a Consumer Price Index (CPI) adjustment. This allows PRDs to remain solvent for the lifetime of the PRD and to "keep pace" with the economy and construction and maintenance costs. The CPI adjustments are capped at 5% annually.
3. How is the greater than 50% threshold for signatures on the Petition for Permanent Road Division Formation determined?
Prior to County staff and the Board of Supervisors approving a PRD ballot procedure process, PRD advocates must collect petition signatures from a majority of parcel owners supporting the PRD. A majority is determined by the number of parcel owner signatures divided by the total number of parcels owners within the proposed PRD. For example, if there are 20 parcels within the proposed PRD, then a minimum of 11 parcel owners must sign the petition. Owners that have multiple parcels need to sign for each property they own. The result must be greater than 50% per County policy.
The petition will be prepared by County staff and typically includes the following items:
- Name of the proposed PRD
- Boundaries of the proposed PRD, including total number of acres
- Assessed valuation of land and improvements within the proposed PRD
- Number of inhabitants and registered voters within the proposed PRD
- Location of the street(s) that will receive maintenance services
- The proposed rate and method of apportionment of the assessment
Parcel owners must be on record with the County as having ownership of the parcel in question. Family members not listed on property documents and renters / leasers are not eligible to sign the petition. Petitions will be checked with County records for validity. If the County's review results in less than 50% of valid signatures, the signatures will be returned to the PRD representative and additional signatures requested.
4. If a threshold for signatures on the Petition is met, what is the process to have the PRD formed?
The Streets and Highways Code (Section 1160-1197, et seq) allow for the formation of PRDs, and the formation of a parcel charge follows the requirements of Proposition 218.
When sufficient signatures have been collected, the petition, along with a list of all the property owners with their Assessor's parcel numbers and mailing addresses, is delivered to the Department of Public Works. Upon certification of the petition and completion of an Engineer’s Report and other supporting documentation, the County Board of Supervisors will vote to approve a Resolution of Intent to form the PRD. The Board of Supervisors will then set a date for the public hearing and special election (typically held on the same date). All parcel owners will then be notified by mail and ballots will be mailed out. After the public hearing, the Board will tabulate the election results. If a majority of the ballots approve the parcel charge and no significant issues or concerns are raised during the public hearing process, the Board votes to accept the proposal and approve the PRD parcel charge.
5. Where does the money come from to pay for road maintenance?
The PRD will build up reserves from benefit fee assessments over time in order to pay for road maintenance and preservation costs. Road work cannot be performed until the money is available to pay for those services.
6. In the Engineer's Report and Cost Estimate Sheet you show administration costs. What kinds of things are included in that?
That includes all costs associated with managing PRD funds and the PRD in compliance with State and local laws. There are annual costs for overhead (i.e. office space, computers, vehicle usage, etc.), as well as annual costs for audits, benefit fee processing, Engineer's Report updates, and field reviews. "Administration" also includes any costs we incur related to the PRD, including but not limited to telephone call responses, written correspondence, response to complaints, issues requiring field visits, and any other investigative activities requested by parcel owners.
In an effort to keep your administrative costs low, we always encourage property owners to consider a neighborhood contact person (chairperson) as their first point of contact for questions or issues that need resolution. That way, all pertinent items are being channeled through a single point of contact, and the number of interactions between the County and the PRD can be minimized to keep administration costs lower.
7. What can I do if I believe I do not benefit from the road maintenance work, or that my assigned benefit is too high?
Assessment PRDs are formed in compliance with State law. The law requires the assessment to be based on benefit to the parcel, not benefit to the property owner, and conveys with the parcel. Before a PRD forms, an Engineer's Report is prepared by the County or a third party Assessment Engineer that determines the boundary map, benefit formula that will be applied to each parcel, and an assessment matrix. The Engineer's Report is available for review, including the boundary map, associated costs, and the assessment methodology.
If you wish to dispute your inclusion in the PRD or your benefit apportionment, you can submit a written request for re-evaluation and provide a basis for your reasoning. The County will review the submittal and make a determination on your request.
8. Will the road be taken over permanently by the County, and become part of the County Maintained Road System?
No. This will be a PRD road maintained by PRD funds. While the County workforces may periodically be used on PRD roads to take advantage of available cost savings, the County Maintained Road System utilizes gas tax and other revenues and is separate and distinct from PRD roads.
Bringing a road into the County Maintained System would require that several criteria be met. The location and route of the road must be deemed by the County to be of public benefit and necessity. In other words, it needs to appear on a Circulation Element planning document, or there needs to be some demonstration that the road is needed to carry large traffic volumes - usually associated with new development. The road would also need to meet County Public Road Construction Standards which include considerable width requirements, and substantial road base specifications that translate into much higher costs.
9. Can property owners hire their own contractors after they form a PRD?
Once the PRD is formed, PRD funds are handled as public monies. This means that the County must follow purchasing and contracting requirements of the County Purchasing Department which calls for a competitive bid process. Any road work must be done by State Licensed and insured contractors, and the work product must be inspected by the County. For routine maintenance, work is performed by County maintenance personnel.
While the property owners may decide to construct improvements with additional monies not included in the PRD, the work must apply for an encroachment permit, and all work will be subject to County standards and procedures.
10. What about liability on these roads?
When a PRD is formed, to some extent the County shares responsibility with the property owners. For example, if the PRD were to make a road that is "less safe" than it was prior to the road maintenance work, the County could incur some liability. To help alleviate these concerns, the County requires any contractor performing road work within a PRD to be State Licensed and insured, with the work product being inspected by the County via an encroachment permit or other approval process.
11. Can our road(s) be gated?
No. The PRD formation process includes a Board of Supervisors’ declaration that roads within the PRD are public. Since they are declared public they cannot be gated or have signs indicating private roads or roads for residents only. The public status enables County crews and contractors to legally access the roads to do work.
12. What is the benefit of forming a PRD versus doing the work ourselves?
Forming a PRD assures that all benefiting parcels pay their fair share of road maintenance costs; not only initially, but in the future as well. Since the obligation is placed against the parcel (not the person), future property owners will be required to pay the assessment. Without the PRD, many communities experience property owners unwilling to pay any of the costs, or owners that are willing to pay, but only a portion of their fair share, and only at a time when it's convenient for them. Unless there is unanimous voluntary participation on the part of all property owners, many communities find it difficult to acquire sufficient funds to complete needed road maintenance.
13. What are the negative aspects of forming a PRD?
The formation process is extensive and can take considerable time to complete. The cost of forming the PRD is borne by properties within the PRD by way of reimbursement that is included in the annual assessments. Without a PRD, there would be no formation costs incurred. There are also administrative costs associated with managing the PRD, which are passed on to properties within the PRD. That money could be saved, and used for road repair and maintenance or other purposes if no PRD existed. Without a PRD, you would have control over any available money and could hire anyone you wish to do the work, any time you want. Once a PRD is formed, we manage your money as public funds and are required to have annual audits and meet other mandated requirements. We also control how contractors are hired and when the work gets done. Without the constraints of a PRD, you’d likely find that you could hire your own contractor and get the work done in a much shorter period of time.
14. What happens if several years after the PRD is formed, we’d like to get rid of it?
The PRD would need to “dissolve.” Dissolution could only occur after any outstanding debt of the PRD is repaid, and the PRD must fund the administrative cost of dissolution including any potential future annual audits for a period of two years.
The dissolution process is similar to the formation process in that it requires the majority approval of the property owners by weighted ballot. If the ballot to dissolve is successful, the Board of Supervisors can approve the dissolution. Once the PRD is dissolved, responsibility for future repair or maintenance of the roads reverts back to the property owners.
15. What happens if property owners split their parcels after the PRD is formed?
The assessments run with the parcel, not the property owners. If property owners split their parcels after the PRD is formed the new parcels will pay their fair share based on the PRD benefit assessment formula included in the Engineer's Report.
16. Should we consider creating a PRD Committee or Chairperson?
The State law which governs PRDs does not prescribe a formal process for the selection of a PRD Chairperson, or Committee member, and it does not lay out specific roles and responsibilities. In many smaller PRDs, road maintenance decisions are made directly by the Department of Public Works and are scheduled when there are sufficient funds available in the PRD budget and when the need arises.
However, some neighborhoods may decide to designate a PRD Chairperson and/or Committee Members to adequately represent the property owners. Most often, the PRD Chairperson is a project proponent who initiates and leads the formation effort. Anyone who wishes to be on the PRD Committee should contact the Chairperson to volunteer. The PRD Committee should consist of parcel owners that provide input on road maintenance needs to the Chairperson, and are kept informed of PRD activities by the Chairperson, through the use of a newsletter or periodic meetings.
17. Do we need to maintain all the roads in our potential PRD?
No. The decision to include or exclude roads is up to the parcel owners and neighborhood representatives prior to the formation of the PRD. When roads do not meet minimum County standards, the County may determine that these roads are not eligible for inclusion in the PRD. Very often only the primary entrance road - and perhaps a few connector roads - are initially maintained because of cost considerations. Other roads can be included for maintenance at a future time, but it requires Board of Supervisor action to do so.
18. How is it determined which roads in the potential PRD receive service?
When a PRD with multiple roads is formed, the neighborhood representatives or property owners will request which roads are to be maintained by the PRD. Roads that are maintained by the PRD will receive service based on need and/or requests to service the particular road.
19. How long does the process take and how long will you work on a particular PRD formation effort?
Typically a PRD can be formed in 6 to 12 months. Typically assessments are collected in the first tax year after the PRD is formed. It can take anywhere from 6-12 months after a PRD is formed for funds to begin collecting in the PRD account. Since the County will only service the road with available funding in the PRD account, there can be an unmet expectation from the residents who assume the County will immediately assume perform maintenance activities on PRD roadways.
In some cases, property owners may wish to temporarily increase their assessments (over a predetermined time period not to exceed 5 years) or deposit funds directly into a PRD account to advance needed road maintenance services. These options are available to property owners if needed and can be included in the Engineer’s Report and PRD approval process.
20. Who will manage the PRD?
Management of the PRD is the responsibility of the Department of Public Works. Typically the County directly manages smaller PRDs. However, a PRD Chairperson or Committee can also work with the County if needed. In these instances, we typically consult PRD representatives to receive input and recommendations regarding maintenance and repair needs, and the setting of priorities. In cases where road damage or an unexpected event creates a significant hazardous condition, Public Works will take immediate unilateral actions to abate the hazard.
Ultimate authority for the PRD, including its initial formation or dissolution, management, annual budget, and assessment collection, lies with the County Board of Supervisors.
21. What maintenance services are typically included in PRDs?
Road maintenance typically includes the same level of services expected for publicly maintained roads. This may include crack sealing, pothole repair, minor drainage maintenance and improvements, roadside brush clearing, surface treatments (typically chip seals performed every 7-10 years depending on road conditions), overlay improvements (typically performed every 20-30 years), striping maintenance, snow removal, fallen tree removal, etc. In some cases, specific items may be excluded from PRDs (i.e. snow removal on roads with speed bumps), but these exclusions are considered on a case-by-case basis.
22. Do the PRD roads receive traffic violation enforcement?
No, law enforcement agencies will not enforce violations of traffic control signs on PRD roads.
23. What if I have more questions about the PRD process?
The County maintains a webpage with information regarding private road maintenance and the PRD process. You may also call the Department of Public Works at 530-265-1411 during normal business hours. Private Road Maintenance Options Page
Owners living on private roads are required to maintain their roads by State law, California Civil Code §845 (PDF):
- The owner of any easement in the nature of a private right-of-way, or of any land to which any such easement is attached, shall maintain it in repair.
- If the easement is owned by more than one person or is attached to parcels of land under different ownership, the cost of maintaining it in repair shall be shared by each owner of the easement or the owners of the parcels of land, as the case may be, pursuant to the terms of any agreement entered into by the parties for that purpose.
- If any owner who is a party to the agreement refuses to perform, or fails after demand in writing to pay the owner's proportion of the cost, an action to recover that owner's share of the cost, or for specific performance or contribution, may be brought by the other owners, either jointly or severally. The action may be brought before, during, or after the performance of the maintenance work, as follows:
(1) The action may be brought to small claims court if the amount claimed to be due as the owner's portion of the cost does not exceed the jurisdictional limit of the small claims court. A small claims judgment shall not affect the apportionment of any future costs that are not requested in the small claims action.
(2) Except as provided in paragraph (1), the action shall be filed in a superior court and, notwithstanding Section 1141.13 of
the Code of Civil Procedure, the action shall be subject to judicial arbitration pursuant to Chapter 2.5 of Title 3 of Part 3 (commencing with Section 1141.10) of the Code of Civil Procedure. A superior court judge shall not affect the apportionment of any future costs that are not requested n the action unless otherwise provided in the judgment.
(3) In the absence of an agreement, the cost shall be shared proportionately to the use made of the easement by each
(4) Nothing in this section precludes the use of any available alternative dispute resolution program to resolve actions regarding the maintenance of easements in the small claims court or the superior court.
d. In the event that snow removal is not required under subdivision (a), or under any independent contractual or statutory duty, an agreement entered into pursuant to subdivision (b) to maintain the easement in repair shall be construed to include
snow removal within the maintenance obligations of the agreement if all of the following exist:
(1) Snow removal is not expressly precluded by the terms of the agreement.
(2) Snow removal is necessary to provide access to the properties served by the easement.
(3) Snow removal is approved in advance by the property owners or their elected representatives in the same manner as provided by the agreement for repairs to the easement.
(4) This section does not apply to rights-of-way held or used by railroad common carriers subject to the jurisdiction of the Public Utilities Commission.
The County does not enforce private road maintenance with the exception of vegetation management. Road maintenance, as defined in this section refers to the physical maintenance of a road to included asphalt, potholes, signage, drainage (including, but not limited to: driveway culverts and culverts under a private road apron where the private driveway or road adjoins a county maintained road), gravel, shoulders, striping, etc. If, as per paragraph (c) a property owner is not participating in the maintenance of the road, you may wish as a first step to contact the Public Law Center, a legal assistance service of the Nevada County Superior Court, 201 Church Street, Ste 9, Nevada City, CA 95959 (1st floor of the courthouse). The phone number is 530-470-2594. Hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.
Residents may also decide to maintain their public roads through an independent special district called a "Community Services District" ("CSD"; see Government Code sections 61000 et seq., newly revised effective January 1, 2006).
A CSD has its own locally elected governing board to ensure local control of decisions, such as budgeting, revenue, and scope of service. A CSD is required to follow state laws applicable to public works contracts, including formal bidding and payment of prevailing wages.
Formation must go through LAFCo. The formation can occur only in conjunction with the approval of a special tax or parcel charge. Often, a CSD is formed to provide a number of other public services in addition to road maintenance (see, Government Code section 61100). The permissible range of public services is determined by LAFCo review, which mainly concerns the overall efficiency and legality of providing such services.