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S.C. woman asks county for help with private road after neighbors stuck for two days

Published: Apr. 30, 2021 at 8:15 PM EDT
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BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - About a dozen neighbors in Beaufort County were unable to drive anywhere after a large tree fell blocking the only road out of their neighborhood this week. It happened after Saturday night’s severe weather. Neighbors weren’t able to drive out for two days.

The county told neighbors they couldn’t help them. Those neighbors reached out to WTOC for answers. Beaufort County officials told us they legally cannot do anything because it’s a private road.

There are 339 miles of private dirt roads across Beaufort County alone. Ramblin Road, the drive in question, was maintained by the county until 1994. But lifelong resident Jumesha Gibbs told WTOC, when a huge tree left her and her family stranded, she hoped the county would step-in and help.

“They told me it was everybody who lives on this road’s responsibility to have these trees moved,” said Gibbs.

Gibbs added that her family doesn’t know who owns the driveway. But, she fears it could cause some real issues if something like this happens again.

“I have a 97-year-old grandmother who lives on this road. Who, in the event of an emergency situation - not just her, but anybody back here - what are we supposed to do?” said Gibbs.

Gibbs says she doesn’t believe she owns any part of the drive, so she doesn’t understand why it’s her job to remove the tree. WTOC reached out to the county’s public works department. An official told WTOC the adjoining neighbors do each own part of the road.

After missing a day of work due to the road’s condition, Gibbs said she noticed the tree was gone Tuesday. She believes the person who owns that section of the road had the tree removed. She said the county told her the owner does not live in South Carolina.

Gibbs said, regardless of who owns the road, she wants to see it cleaned up.

“When it rains it’s bad. Real bad. It’s real muddy,” said Gibbs. “if you don’t coast the right way, your car will get stuck.”

But neighbors like Gibbs aren’t totally powerless. They can apply to the county for a “Road Acceptance Application.” But it’s up to one of the neighbors - in this case, Gibbs - to gather every single neighbors signature. That means every owner has to agree to donate their part of the drive to the county.

The public works department tells WTOC even if that happens, it’s still no guarantee the county, will accept the road especially if it requires a lot of work. Gibbs says she’s worried about her grandmother having another medical emergency before this issue is resolved. She said when first responders have arrived in the past, they won’t even drive down the road.

“If they get here before E.M.S., they don’t even bring their vehicle down this road. they actually run with their stuff from the end of the road to get to the house,” said Gibbs. “I mean, it’s just not fair.”

WTOC also reached out to the South Carolina Department of Transportation. They sent us the article of the state’s constitution that shows it is unconstitutional for the county to do work on private roads.

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