Q&A: Turning Over an Association's Streets to a Township

Q “Our association will be voting soon on giving our streets to our township. The township will then repay us for snow removal. My question is: Is it generally a good thing to give your streets away?”

—Concerned About Municipal Reimbursement

A “There is no general answer to your question as to whether it is a good thing to give private streets to a municipality,” says attorney Wendell Smith of the Woodbridge, New Jersey firm Greenbaum, Rowe, Smith & Davis, LLP. “There are several different considerations to be weighed.

“The obvious advantage is that the association will not have to provide reserves for the maintenance and repair of the streets, which will eliminate any assessment to unit owners for this purpose. The association’s liability insurance premium may also be impacted favorably since the private streets are not owned by the association. This potential should be addressed with the association’s insurance agent or carrier.

“The effect upon the security of the community may also be an issue in some cases, particularly in a gated community. Public streets by their very nature must be open to the public and, therefore, the maintenance and staffing of any gatehouse by the association would not be feasible. On the other hand, if the association has not formally ceded the enforcement of traffic laws to the local police department, the dedication of the streets to the municipality would automatically provide for such jurisdiction.

“Finally, your comment about repayment by the township for snow removal is unclear. The association can be reimbursed for snow removal on private streets under the New Jersey Municipal Services Act although the reimbursement formula is unsatisfactory in many cases. Your question suggests that the association may provide snow removal on the public streets and be reimbursed for same. Again, the reimbursement formula may be problematic and, of course, the association would have to carry liability insurance covering this activity.

“To summarize, there is no general answer to your question. Each of the specific issues must be addressed independently.”

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