Rural Business Address Committee
In February of 2013, the Lancaster County Board was contacted by 911 Emergency Services regarding a public safety issue involving the lack of address signs for businesses located in the vicinity of Saltillo Road and Highway 77. Specifically, a Lancaster County Sheriff deputy was dispatched to a business located at the address of 1066 Saltillo Road. Upon arrival at the scene, the deputy was unable to find the property in question. The business was located on a one-third-mile-long private drive serving multiple businesses, with a range of addresses from 1000 to 1082 Saltillo Road. An aerial photograph of this area is included with this report as Attachment A (PDF).
Address signs are not posted at the entrance to the private drive nor at the individual businesses. Based on these facts, a request was made to post blue address signs at the entrance to the private drive. Recognizing that the lack of address signs for rural businesses is a county-wide public safety issue, the County Board organized a committee to examine the question and make a recommendation on a policy governing business addresses.
Committee members were selected based on their knowledge of the rural address system, direct involvement in the provision of emergency response services, and familiarity with laws and regulations relating to public safety issues. Based on these qualifications, the following City of Lincoln and Lancaster County employees were selected to serve on the Committee:
- Brittany Behrens, Deputy Lancaster County Attorney
- Arlynn Brunke, Computer and GIS Support Assistant for the Lancaster County Engineer's Office
- Kerry Eagan, Chief Administrative Officer to the Lancaster County Board
- Tara Garza, Emergency Services Dispatcher II/Tech Support for 911 Emergency Services
- Terry Kathe, Zoning Coordinator for the City of Lincoln Building and Safety Department
- Doug Pillard, Design Division Head for the Lancaster County Engineer's Office
- Ryan Schmuecker, Lancaster County Deputy Sheriff
- John Watson, Deputy Lancaster County Attorney
- Minette Genuchi, Administrative Aide to the Lancaster County Board
In 1999 the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners received a report and recommendations from the Rural Address Committee, which was established by the County Board to examine the problem of inaccurate addresses in rural Lancaster County. Recommendations from the Committee included:
- Creation of a parcel-based database for all rural addresses
- Correction of inaccurate addresses
- Establishment of a protocol for assignment of new addresses
- Requirement of posting addresses on a mailbox or separate marker
Many of the recommendations from the Rural Address Committee have been implemented by the County. Utilizing geographic information system (GIS) technology, the following was accomplished:
- Geocoding system was developed to assign addresses based on the location of the access point
- Comprehensive database was established
- Manager/custodian of the database was designated
- Inaccurate residential addresses were corrected
Thereafter, blue address signs were posted in County-owned right-of-way for each occupied rural residential parcel, including parcels located within the extra-jurisdictional territory of cities and villages. With regard to private driveways serving multiple residences, blue signs are posted at the entrance to the private drive from the County road, but are not posted in front of each individual residence along the private drive. However, blue address signs have not been posted for rural businesses.
Committee discussions centered on the problems emergency responders experience in finding both business and residential properties located on private drives which serve multiple parcels. Since private drives are not part of the County road system, they are not named and identified in the 911 data base. Although an address is assigned to each business property, address signs for businesses are not posted where the private drive meets the public right-of-way, as they are for private drives serving multiple residences.
Morever, even if addresses are posted at the entrance to multiple-parcel private drives a first responder may still have difficulty locating the parcel which generated the call for service. This problem is illustrated in Attachment B (PDF), an aerial view of a private drive near 98th Street and Leighton Avenue serving 14 residential lots. Since clearly identifiable address signs are not posted at parcel entrances, it can be very difficult to ascertain the residence which needs assistance, especially at night.
It was the consensus of the Committee that public safety could be improved if address signs are posted on County roads for rural businesses, and both residences and businesses located on multi-use private drives are required to provide a second address marker clearly visible to first responders. The Committee then discussed what steps would need to be taken to accomplish these goals.
Steps to Accomplish Goals
Presently, the County has the authority to post address signs in the public right-of-way for businesses; however, it would need to be decided what types of land uses should be classified as a business for purposes of receiving an address sign. In general, uses which are more likely to result in a call for emergency services should be included. Examples might include commercial storage units, recreational fields/facilities, and camps, as well as more traditional business uses. The County Engineer's Office estimates there are approximately 120 rural businesses, including those located in the extra jurisdictional territories of cities and villages, which should be provided with address signs. Approximately 10 of these properties have inaccurate addresses which need to be corrected. An individual sign and post costs $10, and the labor to install the signs is provided by the Engineer's Office.
Also, the County Attorney's Office indicates general statutory authority exists under the County's zoning authority to require individual property owners to post address signs. However, the County Board would need to pass a resolution amending the County Zoning Regulations to implement this requirement. The resolution should contain standards for size and location which provide clear identification to emergency responders of the best entry point to residential and business properties, if not evident by the blue sign provided by the County. The resolution requiring address signs would also provide enforcement authority, including situations where a landowner interferes with the placement of a blue address sign installed by the County.
Finally, it was indicated that over time the blue address signs fade and lose reflectivity. At some point the signs will need to be replaced.
Based on the foregoing discussions, the Rural Business Address Committee hereby tenders the following recommendations to the Lancaster County Board of Commissioners:
- Address signs should be posted on County roads for all businesses which are included in the County's address database:
- Standards should be developed for the purpose of classifying which land uses should be included as a business for purposes of posting address signs.
- Inaccurate business addresses should be corrected following the same procedure under which inaccurate residential addresses were corrected.
- The Lancaster County Board should pass a resolution requiring all occupied residential properties and all business properties to have address signs which meet County standards:
- Residences and businesses located on private drives serving multiple properties should be required to provide the address sign at their own cost.
- The County should develop a strategy, with a funding plan, for replacement of worn out address signs located on County roads. Responsibility for sign replacement should be placed with the County Engineer's Office.
- The County should work with the villages and cities in the County to implement these recommendations within their extra territorial zoning jurisdictions.
Respectfully submitted this 25th day of April, 2013 on behalf of the Lancaster County Rural Business Committee,
Kerry P. Eagan
Chief Administrative Officer