Garfield County will research who actually owns an interior subdivision road and other common areas in Rifle Village South where soils erosion is threatening homes.
The county will also consider a petition from property owners in the subdivision to have the road added to the county's official road system.
"We're not ignoring, or denying that there's a problem," County Commission Chairman John Martin said at the board's meeting on Monday, Nov. 5. "You can petition to have the road added to the county road system, and we will look at that and see what the risk factors are."
Until then, the road and drainage ditch that has led to the problem remains in legal limbo. That has left affected homeowners in limbo as well.
Janet Ketelsleger, who has lost part of her backyard to a sinkhole as a result of the unstable soils alongside the road, pleaded with the commissioners to fix the problem.
"It's not fair, nor reasonable to make property owners be responsible for a drainage problem that the county allowed to happen," Ketelsleger said. "I appeal to you to accept that small section of road into the county road system."
That would remove the legal barrier for the county to proceed in fixing the problem, she said.
Ketelsleger was accompanied by two other property owners in the neighborhood, Ronald Jacobs and Lee Alleman.
"Erosion has always been an issue there, and decisions were made by the county to allow the development to occur there," Jacobs said. "As long as that piece of property is unclaimed, nobody can fix it."
Though maintaining the problem is not the county's to fix, commissioners directed the county attorney and road and bridge department to look into the issue.
That will include research to determine who last owned the roads and other common areas where the problems have occurred.
But just because the road is listed as "public" for subdivision access purposes, doesn't mean it's a county road, Martin said.
Rifle Village South was originally developed by Larry Bradley in the 1960s, and a local improvement district was formed to pay for streets when homes were finally built in the 1980s and '90s.
However, the common areas of the subdivision have since disappeared from the county's tax rolls, and the ownership is unclear.
Ketelsleger points to a letter sent by county officials to subdivision residents in 1987, indicating they knew of the unstable soils in the area, which they said could lead to sinkholes.
In 1997, Ketelsleger said, the county approved the addition of several homes, including the one Ketelsleger bought in 2003, before the sinkholes appeared.