April 22, 2024

Jasper County to continue vacating unused roadways and alleys in Ira

Supervisors to hold road vacation public hearings on March 26, April 2, April 9

Jasper County agenda documents show the nine roads and alleyways that were vacated late last month. The county engineer has set public hearings for seven more street vacations, which he said would not overly impact Jasper County's allotment of Road Use Tax.

Supervisor Brandon Talsma needed to take a long drink of coffee after opening and closing nine public hearings to vacate portions of county roadways in Ira, and then see if there was any discussion from the public, waive the next readings and adopt the resolutions. It took 14 minutes, but it felt much longer.

Legal descriptions of the roads themselves also took over massive portions of the Feb. 27 board of supervisors agenda. Jasper County officials decided last week to slog through yet another round of public hearings during the regularly scheduled board meetings at 9:30 a.m. March 26, April 2 and April 9.

Jasper County Engineer Michael Frietsch said the previous road vacations were streets and alleys in Ira that are not currently being used at all. The roads were eliminated from the books and have been transferred to the different adjacent parcels. Frietsch said these next proposed road vacations are a continuation.

“We’ve got another seven now in Ira that are unused alleys and alleys that people don’t want,” Frietsch said. “I’ve been approached by Killduff (an unincorporated community in southeast Jasper County) about looking at some of their streets. Once we get through with Ira we’re going to go look at Killduff.”

The county has no doubt approved road vacations in the past, and they are almost always very small and practically non-existent streets. Frietsch said there have also been vacations of county granular road easements. But the road vacations in Ira are unique in that they are roads on platted land.

“So in Ira and these burgs, the county actually owns the land. It’s the county’s real property that the alleys and these streets are on,” Frietsch said. “Because they are platted communities, that means originally that land used for the road right-of-ways and for the alleyways was deeded to that community.”

When the communities ceased to be incorporated, the county took over. Frietsch said the road vacations are actually now putting the land back into the tax space.

Frietsch noted the county’s allotment for Road Use Tax will not be impacted too much by the road vacations in these platted communities. If a granular secondary road had been vacated instead or if the county decided to vacate several miles of roads over the next year, then there would certainly be a difference.

“You might see a little bit of difference because they would factor it differently since we have less miles of road,” Frietsch said. “So far, we really haven’t vacated a lot of granular roads or secondary roads. So it really shouldn’t impact our formula much at all.”

Vacating a road is not something the county takes lightly, especially when it could negatively impact the formula for Road Use Tax. Frietsch said a lot of times it is more worthwhile to re-classify a road from a Level A road to a Level B road. Therefore it would still remain as a road in the system.

Frietsch also looks at various factors before deciding if a road should be vacated. For roads in unincorporated areas or platted communities, a vacation may be necessary when the road isn’t being used or no longer exists. But Frietsch also looks at access to nearby lots.

“In Ira, some of those pieces of land we vacated we conveyed to certain existing parcels intentionally to make sure they had access to their parcels,” Frietsch said. “We didn’t want to ‘orphan’ it. So you gotta make sure when you’re doing road vacations you don’t orphan anything.”

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.