Regulating access to private subdivisions
Q: Who has jurisdiction over pedestrian access routes such
as sidewalks, curb ramps, and driveways: the city, developer, or residents?
A: You do.
Disability doesn't discriminate. The right to access the public portion of a
right of way doesn't go away just because a neighborhood is gated. Thus,
jurisdictions that regulate private subdivisions can - and should - regulate
accessibility as required under Title II of the law; and may be violating the law if they
I called the U.S. Access
Board twice for advice on this topic. Because most city and county ADA
ordinances don't specifically address access, the courts look at how the
community regulates other aspects of private-subdivision infrastructure. The key
case is one in which a New Hampshire subdivision wouldn't allow group homes. The
U.S. Justice Department ruled the city could not allow zoning or permits that
exclude group homes since they constitute discrimination.
If you answer yes to any of the following questions, then the public portions
of the sidewalks – including curb ramps, obstructions, and accessible barriers –
are under your jurisdictional control.
Does your jurisdiction maintain the streets in this subdivision?
Does it require a plan review of the subdivision for connections and
requirements for water, sewer, cable, and/or electrical codes?
Do the subdivision owners pay taxes for water and sewer lines, and perhaps
even trash collection?
Does your jurisdiction regulate and inspect varied building codes?
Do you require permits to build the homes and do you review each home's
Does it require an inspection before a resident is permitted to occupy the
Are their posted speed limit signs installed by your city or county?
Are there any other controls that your specific city or county might have
related to private or gated communities that are the same as any other
Walkways that lead directly into the home aren't included, but the part of
the driveway that extends into a walkway is. When reviewing plans, make sure the
same 2% cross-slope requirement as a sidewalk is present.
Any portion of a sidewalk or driveway that anyone in the private community
must use needs to accommodate all of the people with all of their different
needs. At any time, an owner could experience a permanent injury, stroke, or
illness that requires wheelchairs, unobstructed pedestrian access routes, and
curb ramps with detectable warnings. Addressing access requirements up front
benefits everyone both now and in the future.