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East Hampton to repair old roads

After studying the problem for years, East Hampton is finally ready to bring a group of adjoining roads in the Northwest section into the 21st century.

The town has about 30 miles of private roads, most of them old streets that were never built to town standards. As a result, they are not part of the town highway system and get no town services, such as repairs, tree trimming or snow plowing, unless a state of emergency is declared.

The system creates problems for homeowners, who must pay to fix potholes or deal with flooding. The town cannot accept portions of a private road, or even an entire road, into its highway system unless the roadway is brought up to standard.

The town plans to bring 11 roads in the Northwest section up to town standards and then accept those streets as town roads, provided the owners pay the $915,000 cost of the initial upgrade.

At a public hearing last week, most people favored the proposal, which would be financed through the sale of 15-year bonds.

Owners of improved lots would pay $4,328 and owners of vacant, unimproved lots would pay $25,968.02. Under a system used decades ago, people who built houses on those private roads paid into a fund used to upgrade roads to town standard, but not necessarily where they lived, since homes on some roads were far from their neighbors.

Homeowners who already have access to a town road -- if they live on a corner lot, or if the private road is an extension of an existing town road -- won't pay anything.

It is still unclear precisely what each individual property owner will pay, since some lots are too small to build on and the charge would be prorated. Of the 166 parcels involved, 26 are vacant, town officials said.

The East Hampton town board must approve the project, along with property owners.

"I'm in favor of this," said Paul Hatch. "It's time to have this done. Our property values will greatly increase . . . I've been plowing snow since 1998, trimming trees and filling potholes. For $300 a year, you can't beat that deal."

But Henry Dittmer, who owns several unimproved parcels, said the increased cost of road improvements could force him to sell his land all at once.

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