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A hard road to hoe in Lula
Property owners frustrated that no one will repair Victoria Lane
Residents on Victoria Lane in the Hemlock Springs subdivision in Lula must travel along a poorly maintained unpaved road, many with washed-out ruts along driveway entrances, on a daily basis. Neither Hall County nor the city of Lula maintain the road, charging that it belongs to the subdivision developer.

One Lula neighborhood has found itself in a tight spot.

Curvy, crumbling Victoria Lane needs to be repaired, but no one can find the person responsible for fixing it.

Cain Harris, who owns land on Victoria Lane, said he is upset that the city hasn't taken responsibility for the road.

"It's a quagmire. And the city refuses to do anything," Harris said.

But the city technically can't do anything, said Lula City Manager Dennis Bergin, because the road is private property.

"The law won't allow us to come in and acquire that property at a cost to the current taxpayers," Bergin said. "We're talking in excess of $200,000 to bring that road up to the improvement level."

The road is owned by developer Barry Wikle, who disappeared and can't be reached.

And though the city can't legally help fix Victoria Lane, Bergin said he sympathizes with residents.

"The property owners have been left with this mess," Bergin said. "From our perspective, we'd like to see it resolved. The city, unfortunately, has obligations to how they will receive property for consideration of dedication of roads and that's been in place, it's not uncommon. Almost all the counties and the cities in this area have it. Consequently, we can't accept private property that would have to be improved upon with tax payers' dollars to bring it up to that standard."

Harris said he is angry because the city did not require Wikle to put up a bond for the road.

"Had the mayor done what he was supposed to at the beginning and taken a bond from the guy, we wouldn't be having this conversation," Harris said. "They let him get away without fixing the road."

Mayor Milton Turner said after the Victoria Lane debacle, the city of Lula requires builders to put up a bond on all new roads to ensure they will complete the job.

"This is the worst one we have ever encountered and we have changed our policy since that development," Turner said.

"It's been a concern of ours ever since the street started falling apart. We would love to see him resolve that and we would love to take it over," Turner said.

Harris said the road hasn't been properly usable in years. "The road got so bad ... about three or four years ago the school bus couldn't get up the hill," Harris said.

Turner said residents have been vocal for several years about the condition of the road, but he cannot do anything about it but explain the situation.

"It's mostly the school buses. They have it pretty bad," said Marie Greenway, a Victoria Lane resident, of the Hall County school buses that often can't clear the steep hill in the neighborhood. "The kids here have to walk down the hill."

Greenway said the neighbors chipped in to have the road scraped, but it was soon ruined by four-wheelers. She said she wouldn't mind contributing more to help repair the road.

"I don't mind helping. It needs to be fixed," she said. "I don't know if they can do anything about it. Ain't nobody doing nothing."

Harris said the lease-to-own neighborhood is suffering as a result of the dilapidated road. "Eighty percent of the houses in there are still pretty nice," Harris said.

But 10 to 15 of the houses are vacant or have been foreclosed, and the three- and four-bedroom double-wide homes that originally sold for $85,000 to $95,000 have dropped in value to between $30,000 and $40,000 a unit.

Residents in the neighborhood are left with few options.

Bergin said he thinks the responsibility is now on the homeowners. He recommended residents raise funds to bring the road up to standard so Lula could accept it, or unite to take legal action against the developer as property owners.

"Here you've got a city who's been responsible in their actions up to this point and you've got a developer who hasn't," Bergin said.