Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Mandatory address change irritates, puzzles some rural county residents

By ABBY ECKEL, Herald Staff Writer | 10/23/2013

A Franklin County policy adopted more than 20 years ago has been causing problems for rural residents, Larry Walrod said.

The issue arose with homes being built on land previously unused for residential development,  Walrod, director of building and planning for the county, said. Because of a long-standing county resolution mandating new homes be assigned addresses based on the 911 addressing system, some address changes are causing confusion and even anger in the community.

A Franklin County policy adopted more than 20 years ago has been causing problems for rural residents, Larry Walrod said.

The issue arose with homes being built on land previously unused for residential development,  Walrod, director of building and planning for the county, said. Because of a long-standing county resolution mandating new homes be assigned addresses based on the 911 addressing system, some address changes are causing confusion and even anger in the community.

“We’ve probably reassigned about 500 addresses over the past two years,” Walrod said. “Typically, you had a larger parcel and it was given a situs address [legal location] from the appraiser’s office.”

In 1990, the Franklin County Board of Commissioners signed a resolution that stated addresses would be assigned using the 911 system, but exempted properties without structures from having to provide an address until a time came when a structure was built on the property, according to county documents.

With construction taking place on previously undeveloped land, or in the event that an owner of property once given a situs address has decided to sell part of the land it currently sits on, conflict has arisen, Walrod said.

“This office is responsible for assigning addresses — we do that when we issue building permits,” he said. “We didn’t have a building code until 1998 and we didn’t issue building permits and weren’t in the business much of assigning addresses. There was a gap in there that allowed situs addresses to tumble along, and people used them. It didn’t create a problem until there were new units being placed that were addressed in accordance with the 911 system and now it creates an issue.”

One of the concerns with using situs addresses is related to first responders trying to locate a property, Walrod said. If an older property still is using a situs address, first responders likely won’t be able to find the location, he said.

“First responders of all kinds — the sheriff, police, ambulance — set up a system so that the general public would be knowledgeable of how to find an address,” Walrod said. “[With a situs address] your post office was the only one who really knew where you physically lived.”

The main problem, Walrod said, is when a piece of land is being divided up, and the new address is getting an address assigned from the 911 system, but the old address still is a situs address.

“The system calls out so many numbers in sequence beginning at the south and west county lines and gets larger as you go north and east,” he said. “If you’ve got a new house that’s going in that’s getting assigned a 911 address in accordance with policies adopted by the county, sometimes that number is larger than the number going east, therefore east is wrong. It’s got to be renumbered and that’s happened so many times over the years. It isn’t every case being land division, but 90 percent of it is.”

Being assigned a new address with the current 911 addressing system is more of a hassle than it is an expense, Walrod said.

“We can work with the people and they’re not happy, but they realize we’re just doing our job,” he said. “It’s more of an inconvenience than a cost. You’ll need to notify the postal department, the appraiser, 911, at least part of the services like Kansas City Power & Light. Some of those are given notice, but you’ll give notice to the rural water district if you’re on it and correct checking accounts with proper address and fix your driver’s license and in some cases, voter registration.”

The only way to resolve the conflict, Walrod said, would be to fix the current county policy, but that’s easier said than done.

“I don’t know why [the board of county commissioners] has never overturned the current policy in place,” he said. “But it’s not just one person’s decision. It’s a group decision.”

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