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Private addressing creates problem in Carbon County

Sun Advocate community editor

A request to put a street name on a private drive fueled a discussion at the county's planning and zoning board meeting on Oct. 5.

The situation involved a street where a number of individuals with disabilities live. Residents making the request feel naming the street might give the people a better response time by emergency crews if needed.

During the meeting, building and planning director Dave Levanger passed out the ordinance dealing with putting up street signs in the county.

"I wanted you all to see the ordinance so you can understand it," explained Levanger to the board. "We do recommend that the sign be put up."

Ordinance 163 was passed by the Carbon County Commission in the 1980s. The intent is "to establish an orderly system for the designation of streets and the addressing of dwellings and other major structures in the unincorporated portions of" the county.

One of the main purposes for that was to expedite emergency service response, for utility service repair, installation and maintenance and to facilitate orderly mail delivery within the county.

The identification of addresses for general public use is also mentioned in the ordinance.

The ordinance specifies that the planning department shall determine addresses as set forth by a master map and gives the staff the authority to name roads.

The planning board approved installing a sign calling the private street Witte-Dorrett Lane.

The ordinance also addresses a problem that exists in the county.

According to the law, "all structures with a street address shall display their numerical designation prominently on the front of the building or other location readily observable from the street using numbers at least three inches in height".

The provision is often ignored by residents of the county and, in some incorporated areas, there are no ordinances on the subject.

The topic arose at the East Carbon City Council meeting last Tuesday, when the community coalition was discussing how to clean up the town.

"One of the problems in town is the addressing used on homes here," said Liz Ferguson, spokesperson for the group at the East Carbon meeting. "Don't we have an ordinance that states residents must put their address on their houses?"

The council did not think there was one.

A second resident pointed out that, years ago, a Boy Scout troop painted addresses on the front curb of all the residences and wondered if that could be done again.

"The problem was that those addresses washed off and faded out very quickly," stated Earl Gunderson. "It was not a permanent fix."

In recent years, the local public safety ispatch center has been set up with a 911 system that automatically brings up addresses on a computer screen when a phone at that location is utilized to call the service

But with the popularity of cell phones, people calling about emergencies have no fixed address. If they are reporting something at an address that has caught their attention, and if the house or houses in the area are not numbered, it can create problems.

Of course one way to solve the situation with cell phone calls being made from unknown addresses is to develop a system that can track cell phone positions and automatically send addresses to emergency personnel in the same way a home phone does. However, there are serious privacy issues that are involved in that endeavor and the solutions for doing that are up for formidable debate.

Nationally, address problems with homes and businesses are not only a problem, but big business as companies come up with all kinds of interesting ways to label locations. Many municipalities have adopted very restrictive covenants on where, how and what kind of addressing can be used on structures. Some follow a code that denotes the following:

•House numbers should be no less than 4" tall.

•Numbers should be in a contrasting color to the color scheme of the structure.

•House numbers should be visible up to 150 feet, from all angles.

•House numbers should be of such construction, color or lighting that they can be seen at night.

•House numbers must be clearly visible throughout the year. Plant growth during certain seasons can hide numbers.

The Carbon County code also states that all residents should have the address prominently displayed on their mail boxes as well, with at least one inch letters, in addition to the numbers on the house.

"This addressing issue is something we are struggling with," said Levanger in a later interview. "Right now we are requiring four-inch lettering on new homes when they are built, but on the older homes it is still three inches. But residents should realize numbering on homes is in the ordinance and that it is enforceable in the unincorporated county."

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