Homeowners in Palisades worry about crashes, risks on ‘orphan road’

Residents have even threatened to block the road from the public since it’s a private street.
Frustration erupts from community as develop fails to meet their expectations for local road construction
Updated: Jun. 30, 2023 at 4:30 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - The battle continues in one Charlotte neighborhood between homeowners and the company that built their development. It all has to do with roads in The Palisades and who will be stuck paying to improve them.

Since the WBTV Investigates Team started investigating HOA issues in 2022, communities across North Carolina have reached out with similar issues to The Palisades.

The concerns have now multiplied and so have the number of frustrated homeowners.

“Grand Palisades runs right past right in front of my home, and there’s substantial traffic. The unknowns associated with Grand Palisades Parkway are a big concern” homeowner Sam Greco said.

Greco and dozens of other homeowners spoke with WBTV about their worry over the future of the main artery through their neighborhood.

The road is considered a “minor thoroughfare” by regional transit leaders and thousands of cars use it even though it’s a private road. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department confirmed to WBTV they can’t even enforce the speed limit on the road.

“There’s people that drive 60-70-80 miles an hour down that road,” Greco said.

The road also serves as an evacuation route for hurricanes and if there were ever a nuclear emergency just across Lake Wylie.

Normally, roads in HOA’s are transferred from the developer to the local or state government to be maintained with taxpayers dollars. But Palisades’ developer Lennar has never done that. In a recent meeting with concerned homeowners a developer appointed board member said Lennar wouldn’t be submitting a petition to turn the parkway over to the state.

Homeowners fear that could mean the cost of fixing the road will fall on them. A group of homeowners recently sent a letter to the developer-appointed board demanding assurances and drawing a line on the parkway issue.

“We’re refusing to take Grand Palisades Parkway. We feel that it’s a huge liability for the homeowners,” homeowner Kerry Comstock said.

The cost of that liability was clear in 2009 when three people who were killed in a wreck write out the Palisades main entrance on NC-49. The former Palisades developer Crescent was sued and taken to court because no traffic light was installed at the time. The case was settled after the company was originally ordered to pay $6,000,000.

Residents say they don’t want that and are willing to go to extreme measures to prevent it from happening. Homeowners half-joked that they would barricade the parkway with junk cars to prevent others from using it.

“Why would we be accepting that responsibility and risk when we…weren’t told that when we bought into the Ccmmunity as far as owning that risk at the end?” Anthony Bucci said.

WBTV reached out to Lennar multiple times but they declined to comment. Palisades homeowners say they need their lawmakers in Raleigh to take action to fix this problem and protect them.

“I think that just goes to show the importance of how our representatives need to step up to the plate and represent the people,” Bucci said.

State Senator DeAndrea Salvador filed a bill to provide $750,000 in funding to make repairs on Grand Palisades Parkway and another $5,000,000 for other orphan roads in Mecklenburg County.

Salvador told WBTV she’s seeking to get the money added to the state budget since the bill didn’t advance from the North Carolina House before last week.

Several other lawmakers who filed bills to provide state funding for orhpan roads across the state are likely seeking similar outcomes. North Carolina’s budget is still being negotiated by leaders in the general assembly.

Another bill that did pass the House would create a subcommittee of lawmakers to investigate HOA oversight issues. The committee would study North Carolina’s current HOA laws and examine whether an existing state agency could be counted on to help homeowners resolve HOA complaints and violations of law.

Homeowners at the Palisades now tell WBTV that developer Lennar is moving to transfer control of the HOA to the homeowners, even though the future of road repairs hasn’t been determined.

State Senator Vickie Sawyer from Mooresville filed a bill to create new fail-safes for that process after she says she learned of an accident on an orphan road involving a three-year-old girl.

“It’s one of my top priorities since I’ve been in the legislature,” Sen Sawyer told WBTV.

If Sawyer’s bill were to become law, developers would have to have to guarantee up to 20% of the cost of the road in a bond in case it doesn’t meet NCDOT standards. There would also be a new four-year timeline for NCDOT or local government to take over the road. These new fail-safes would help make sure homeowners aren’t the ones left responsible.

That bill also has not seen any movement since the legislature’s crossover deadline.

Another bill that has passed the house and is moving through the senate would regulate how liens and fines are managed in HOA’s.

The only other bill that passed one chamber was S376 on expanding members’ rights to HOA records. It would allow HOA members to inspect contracts between their HOA and any management company or other entity given the ability to “exercise any of the powers granted to the association.”

That bill also hasn’t had any hearings or movement since May 4th.

Below are links to legislation filed this year related to HOAs and orphan roads.

H311 – House Select Committee on HOAs

S635 – Orphan Roads

S685 – Funds for Orphan Roads in Mecklenburg Co.

H733 – Orphan Roads DOT Maintenance Program

S261 – Funds to Repair Orphan Roads in Durham County

S376 – Expanding Members’ Access to HOA Records

H805 – Prevent Abusive HOA Foreclosure Practices

HB542 - HOA Revisions/Foreclosure Trustee Auctions.