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Planned residential developments may be on the road to getting some street maintenance help from the city.

The City Council asked staff Tuesday to come up with criteria for sharing costs of maintaining private streets in planned developments. Criteria will likely include how open the development is to the general public and the type and number of amenities it has.The council proposed that the city establish an amount of money for such projects based on the level of roads through the developments. Developments that apply for help will be required to go through a review process. As currently proposed, the city would pick up 40 percent of the cost of a project.

Residents of various private developments in the city have tried for years to get the city's help in maintaining roads.

Developers of private subdivisions are exempt from conforming to some public standards - in particular street standards. The roads in the developments may be narrower, for example, than public streets through other subdivisions.

Developers can control access through private subdivisions as well. They may establish building standards and create neighborhood amenities such as parks and pools. Residents of private subdivisions pay fees to maintain the amenities and streets.

The city has 31 existing planned residential developments; three others are under construction. Altogether they include 12.5 miles of streets.

Earlier this year, representatives of Northridge, the largest private development in the city, asked the council to change its policy of not participating in maintenance of private streets. The residents argued they pay gas-tax money like other residents and that they are counted in the population formula used by the state to allocate road funds to the city.

As one resident said Tuesday night, it's the same principle that led to the Revolutionary War.

"It's taxation without representation," said Jill Buss, who lives in Northridge.

However, the private roads are not included in the state's calculation of road fund allocations based on street miles. For that reason, staff argued the city doesn't receive money to maintain the streets and would have to divert funds from elsewhere.

"Our stance is that given the amount of work we have to do with the funding available, we don't want to increase our work load and dilute our money," said Richard Manning. "We would like to keep the status quo where PRDs stand on their own two feet."

City Attorney Paul B. Johnson said the council could commit the city to help maintain streets in the developments if it determined doing so benefited the general public. By the same token, the city could refuse to help the developments if it found no general public benefit.

The council was swayed to consider changing its policy based on the fact that the parks, pools and other amenities provided by private developments reduce demand on the city's similar services. The taxation-without-representation argument won a few council members over as well.

"It's a matter of principle, the principle being they're paying the same taxes I'm paying," said Councilman Keith Hunt. The residents should receive from benefit from those taxes, he said.