Rough road ahead for Unaccepted Way Bylaw

By Andrea Ray | Mar 28, 2017
Photo by: Andrea Ray Selectmen Judith Whiteside and Patrick Tropeano listen to the Road Commission's Unaccepted Way Bylaw.

When it comes to the Unaccepted Way Bylaw, Wareham’s Board of Road Commissioners is facing a bumpy road.

Board members Bill Heaney, Dave Menard and John McGonnell presented a powerpoint presentation explaining the bylaw to the Wareham Selectmen Tuesday night.

If adopted at Town Meeting, the bylaw would allow residents living on roads that are unaccepted by the town due to various requirements to opt into having town resources maintain their streets.

Approving the bylaw would also mean that the residents of those roads would need to pay for town labor and materials. The costs would be split evenly between all dwellings on the road, with a maximum cost of $400 per dwelling, per project. Projects exceeding that cost limit would place the road on the town’s "do not plow" list until the project is fixed by the town or the abutters.

The bylaw would require 5 percent of road abutters to request opting into the maintenance program; however, 51 percent of abutters would need to sign a petition in order to opt back out.

This last point caused contention amongst the Selectmen.

“The five percent opt-in option is not good. On a road with 20 houses, why should one person make the decision for everyone? It should be changed to 51 percent needed to opt in, and 51 percent needed to opt out," said Selectman Peter Teitelbaum.

Selectman Alan Slavin questioned the sustainability of the bylaw.

“Maintenance crews are already behind on maintaining the accepted public roads,” he pointed out, addressing Menard, who is the Director of Municipal Maintenance. “If you’re backlogged on accepted roads, how do you plan to do the extra work if the budget is cut again?”

Menard told him that Municipal Maintenance was only planning to work on the most pressing maintenance issues.

“We won’t be trimming all the trees back. But we need to clear out the trees that are growing in the middle of some roads," he explained.

“Originally this bylaw was only asking for maintenance of private, unaccepted roads, and then somehow plowing also came up,” said Selectman Patrick Tropeano. “I feel that this bylaw is just overkill for something as simple as cleaning and grading once or twice per year.”

The Board of Selectmen chose to table a vote on the Road Commission’s revision of the proposed bylaw, giving the Board of Road Commissioners more time to address concerns.

Although the Selectmen’s decision was tabled, Teitelbaum was hopeful that a successful conclusion could be reached. “The Road Commission has heard some of our concerns, and they have a lot of time left to address concerns and make amendments," he stated.

Comments (29)
Posted by: Beachbum0715 | Mar 29, 2017 09:57

I would be more optimistic about this if the municipal maintenance department was even capable of properly maintaining the already accepted public travel ways. they want to now tax us residents who reside on private ways?? no way its a completely asinine idea to even consider. myself with other residents who live on private ways already pay the same tax rates as residents abutting public travel ways and they will not have to face an increase cost if their road need repair. why cant we petition to revisit the process of publicly accepting private travel ways so that way the town can receive a larger chapter 90 budget that is supposed to be used towards road repair and maintenance.  Dave Menard needs to start doing a better job as our municipal maintenance director in managing the public travel ways first before i would ever consider any proposals from him. look across town, they do a poor job with those water patches all over the place, point and case, work they were doing near depot st next to the old mayflower bank...they haphazardly left steal plates in the road without proper work zone safety features. not to mention the abrupt grade drops in the road which i know exceeded the maximum thresholds for grade separation on a public travel way, or how about zero effort for pedestrian safety within and around these work zones, start doing your job then maybe you will get some support



Posted by: Garry B. | Mar 29, 2017 10:09

I believe the issue near the Citizens Credit Union was the water department doing the repairs.



Posted by: Andrea Smith | Mar 29, 2017 12:15

For those who may be confused regarding the difference between Wareham's private roads/ private ways and unaccepted roads, the following clarifying definitions:

 

“Unaccepted” roads in this instance refer to roads which, for various reasons, are not yet eligible for acceptance by the town. Most unaccepted roads are open to the public with no obstructions, and look no different than accepted roads through the town.

 

Others, marked "private" are not eligible for town maintenance under the proposed bylaw. The private signage may be removed, but even after that, there is a 12-month moratorium before town maintenance will begin. Currently 531 roads in Wareham are unaccepted, of 977 total named streets. The hearing dealt mainly with the unaccepted roads open to the public, which are not currently maintained by the town."

 

Definitions from Wareham Week's March 13, 2017 article, "Residents find flaws in proposed Wareham road bylaw

 

http://wareham-ma.villagesoup.com/p/residents-find-flaws-in-proposed-wareham-road-bylaw/1632947#1637579



Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Mar 29, 2017 16:07

5% opt in, 51% opt out, $400 max, "do not plow" list, 531 out of 977 unaccepted, 12 month moratorium, and on and on the technicalities go. This is way too complicated!  There is too much room for confusion and unfairness.

 

Think of some of the roads and the residents on the roads in question. Summer/seasonal folk, seniors, rural type folk that prefer to leave the road alone, folk that don't care either way, folk that don't have a penny to spare, folk that are adamantly against paying into this, folk that don't mind paying into this.  The mixed bag is probably even more extreme than those examples! It will be very difficult to get any kind of agreement.

 

Who is going to represent this?  Who's going door-to-door to announce?  Not everybody is aware.  Need to send registered mailings? When/how will they hold hearings to determine the percentages...51%...5%...whatever.  How will they collect the $?  Can't squeeze water from a rock.  Many in Wareham aren't rolling in money.  I can't imagine paying quarterly taxes and then getting whacked $400 more in taxes (yes, it's a tax) whenever they fix the road.

 

I also can't imagine that they will just stop plowing unaccepted roads that they have always plowed, cold-turkey.  Imagine if someone dies in a medical emergency on one of those roads because the paramedics couldn't get there in time.  Imagine if a minor fire turns major on one of those roads because firefighters couldn't get there in time.  The precedent has been set by the Town.  They have been plowing those roads and can't just stop.  It is foolish to believe that police/fire/EMS will coordinate a plow in the event of an emergency in a timely manner.  Critical seconds & minutes will be lost arranging such.  If your kid is choking, your husband is having a heart attack, or your house is burning, do you really think there's time to coordinate a plow?  Get real!



Posted by: bob | Mar 29, 2017 22:09

WBTS,Good points,as they say Welcome to Wareham politics...



Posted by: cranberry scoop | Mar 29, 2017 22:40

Wareham by the Sea made excellent points about safety. What if someone needs Dial a Ride to come up the street once a week, but the neighbors voted to opt out of plowing?  Also, can the town strong arm me into authorizing work on property that is not mine because I need to get out and go to work like all the other people in the area whose streets are "accepted"? It would feel like an illegal act signing papers for someone else's property, and it could come back to bite me. What if their ancient relative planted that rare tree...



Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Mar 30, 2017 11:24

Again how many times does one have to go over this . It is the Towns responsibility to make sure that PUBLIC SAFETY is provided to all of its citizens. Meaning they must be able to respond to all calls. Play this senerio  out

911 Caller : Help my house is on fire and I am trapped .

Dispatcher:  Where are you ?

911 Caller:  1%• Sesame Street ...

Dispatcher : Sesame Street , that's  a private way , and the town didn't plow it ...

Read the Headlines   ELMO DIES IN FIRE , town to be sued ...

The town by law has to make sure that roads are open do emergency vehicles can do their job . Now it doesn't have to be a superior job but it has to be OPEN .

I know about this law first hand I live on a private way  , and own a snow removal business,and my street looks worse than Kandahar Airport. The town opens it up and do a fairly good job .

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



Posted by: Uptohere | Mar 30, 2017 17:41

It has already been commented on that in an emergency an ambulance would follow a plow in. I doubt it would be any different for any other emergency vehicles.



Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Mar 30, 2017 18:13

Uptohere, you are correct.  I believe the police chief stated that in the previous article.  Sounds good in theory.  But Elmo has a better chance if the road is already plowed so the ambulance can so straight to Sesame Street as fast as possible.

 

As Swifts Sheriff plays out.  There will be added steps just in determining if the road is plowed or passable upon receiving the 911 call.  Who's going to keep track?  It's a whole additional set of time consuming variables at a critical time when seconds count.



Posted by: Swifts_Sheriff | Mar 30, 2017 18:53

You guys gave me a great Idea ... Why not weld some plow blades to the fire apparatus. Have a handle you can raise it and drop it at will . Anyone who has driven a fire engine or a ladder truck know how great they handle in the snow . Wareham Needs a tiller  and have the dude in the back carry a snow shovel . I even have a better idea get rid of those Box Ambulances and have custom made 4x4 van ambulances . Yes they do exist company I use to work for had a couple, we had the contract at the now defunct Suffolk Downs you needed it for when the Jockeys got launched , talk about flying humans .. ( story for another day ) ..     Anyway let's keep Elmo alive and not make our fine public safety personal job more difficult...

Boy I miss Suffolk Down ..... Talk about a Launch



Posted by: Wareham By The Sea | Mar 31, 2017 15:23

Seriously, I thought about that.  Fire Engines & Ambulances with Plows designated for the unaccepted roads.  That will alleviate coordinating a plow to go in ahead.  It will save time in most cases.

 

However, everybody forgets what a 100 inch winter can be like.  Just a couple years ago we had several major snowstorms and very cold temperatures.  Several feet of snow just built up, compressed, and froze for 2 months. It was waist high and hard as a rock. How's any plow supposed to get through that quickly when there's a house burning?



Posted by: cranberry scoop | Apr 01, 2017 15:28

It seems to me that some residents of the town are being asked to vote against other residents. Against neighbors and friends who pay the same tax rate. The town is hoping we will turn on each other and go along with their plan. To pick up the slack for work that they should have been doing. I hope at the town meeting, people will remember that we are all members of this community who deserve the same return on our tax dollar.

The Mission Statement of the Municipal Maintenance Department includes:

"The Municipal Maintenance Department oversees the towns' highway, tree, park cemetery, and building departments, as well as, the Wareham Water Pollution Control Facility. These duties and responsibilities include:

Highway Dept: Maintenance of all streets and roadways throughout the town of Wareham. Maintenance includes reconstruction, paving, and drainage, patching of potholes, sweeping, catch basin cleaning, and grading of gravel roads. This department is also responsible for plowing and sanding in the snow and ice season."



Posted by: totellthetruth | Apr 01, 2017 19:23

I just read a new proposal that basically puts all maintenance of unaccepted streets, including plowing back where it was before all this crap started, watch for it at TM.



Posted by: totellthetruth | Apr 01, 2017 19:23

I just read a new proposal that basically puts all maintenance of unaccepted streets, including plowing back where it was before all this crap started, watch for it at TM.



Posted by: cranberry scoop | Apr 02, 2017 10:01

totellthetruth, where did you read it? Can we see it?



Posted by: totellthetruth | Apr 02, 2017 19:53

I wish I could . Its what I think is amendments made to the current Policy. Its starts with Section 18b and its 2 pages long. I'm certainly not going to sit here and type 2 typed pages into this Forum. Outside of that you can come to my house and look at it on my Computer.



Posted by: Fiddler Crab | Apr 04, 2017 22:07

My "unaccepted" or "private" street in Point Independence has been on town maps since the 1890's. It connects two "accepted" streets, and has always been open to the public. The abutting owners have paid taxes at the same rate as homeowners throughout the Town of Wareham. Do we think my road will be accepted anytime soon?

Or, at Town Meeting, by approval of this or a similar by-law, will citizens of the town whose roads have been accepted through the years (happily for them, but paid for and continuously maintained with all of our tax monies), now have the right to deny fair treatment to me and my neighbors?

If so, I surely hope they will also enact a provision to significantly reduce my tax bill to reflect the disparity in services.

This whole approach of pitting townspeople against one another by proposing divisive by-laws instead of bringing them together in mutual support by setting up a program and schedule of roads services seems ill-conceived at best. I hope if there is another proposal it is more positive.



Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 05, 2017 08:17

You bought what you bought. You bought a house on an unaccepted/private road. You have options, A:petition the Town to accept the street, if they want or need they will accept. B: Bring road to acceptable standards and then petition Town to accept the street, if they want or need they will acceptC: Repair your street to plowable standard and Town will plow. D: Pay the Town to repair your street to a plowable standard and the Town will plow your street.  The Town should be accepting only streets it needs or wants. Taking on the maintenance of private /unaccepted streets is not fair to the taxpayer and I believe against State Law.



Posted by: Steve Holmes | Apr 05, 2017 10:55

Sphere is correct. I personally went through this. There is a street behind our house that we use to get home, it has a name, it is on maps, it comes up on GPS maps, but is not an accepted road by the Town, therefore the Town receives no money to maintain the road. The Town receives money from the State base on miles of "accepted" roads, to pave, patch or otherwise maintain. Now snow/ice is a different matter, and I think a lot of folks are confusing the two by talking about paying taxes to the Town. Snow and Ice does come out of the Town budget, however if the Chairman of the BOS declares a State of Emergency, then we may receive State funding to help cover that cost. That takes us back to point number one, State funds are only "supposed" to be used on the same roads, the State has documented as "accepted". So to Sphere's point, and it can be a pain, but go through the process, get your association or neighbors together, fill out the paperwork, get the road accepted, then the Town can increase the State revenue for your roads. In my 6 years on the Board we accepted many roads at Town Meeting, which if  recall is the final step of the process. I know it seem like a pain in the neck but that's the process, otherwise when it snows have a friend with a plow come by, that's what we did. And before you yell at me, yes I understand we all pay State taxes.



Posted by: Fiddler Crab | Apr 05, 2017 14:56

This paints a harsh portrait of life in a town that dropped the ball on its own development less than halfway to its completion, and contributes to my understanding. Thank you.

That said, there is nothing preventing the acceptance of roads by the Town but its own acceptance process. Perhaps expending energy making this process more inclusive would pave the way for additional State funding, followed by applying the aforementioned local tax dollars (again, having been collected for generations at a non-discounted rate) to plowing streets.

Meanwhile, is there a coffee can on your kitchen counter where you deposit a quarter upon your arrival home from work, having traversed that unaccepted road, in recognition of the goodwill of your neighbors who live on it?

And at the beginning of plowing season do you take this can, now heavy with coins, to the legal owner of the street (having researched to ascertain who it is), and present it as a contribution to defray his/her costs now to be faced in providing basic access/egress for the residents on the street about to be stranded by the Town?

I hope so, Neighbor, because my tax money is paying for your privilege to use both the unaccepted street in front of my house and the plowed street in front of yours.

 

 



Posted by: Peter W. Teitelbaum | Apr 05, 2017 16:15

The street acceptance process is governed by state law.  Both of the allowed methods require a Town Meeting vote.



Posted by: Fiddler Crab | Apr 05, 2017 17:51

I await the results of the vote. This will further inform me and provide guidance for continued adjustment of my hopes for and my expectations of Wareham.



Posted by: Steve Holmes | Apr 05, 2017 19:08

Thanks Pete, the old memory is getting dusty but I thought the last step was TM vote.



Posted by: cranberry scoop | Apr 05, 2017 22:25

Can anyone tell me how to find out who owns my street?  I looked it up in the registry of deeds listing, but it only names the residents, not the owner of the actual road.



Posted by: Peter W. Teitelbaum | Apr 06, 2017 07:31

Scoop, go to the Assessor's property lookup site here and find your property:

 

http://gis.vgsi.com/warehamma/

 

The first number of  the MBLU in the top right of the listing is the number of the Assessor's map showing your property.  Then go go to the Assessor's map page and click on your map.  Assessor's maps can be found here:

 

http://www.wareham.ma.us/assessing-department/pages/assessors-maps

 

If you don't see the street drawn in as a separate piece of land between your property and the one across the street, then you own the portion that is in front of your lot, typically to the centerline of the street.

 

 

 

 



Posted by: cranberry scoop | Apr 06, 2017 08:44

Thank you Peter



Posted by: cranberry scoop | Apr 06, 2017 22:51

So Peter, I followed your instructions, and the road is drawn separately on the map.  So can you tell me how to find out who owns it??  Thanks



Posted by: Peter W. Teitelbaum | Apr 06, 2017 23:01

If your street is listed here, it's a public way:

http://www.wareham.ma.us/sites/warehamma/files/uploads/accepted_streets_nov_2016.pdf

 

If not, and if your deed makes no reference to it, you should contact the Planning Dept. at (508) 291-3100 EXT 6500 to see if there is a subdivision plan and approval on file that might show who owns the road.

 



Posted by: cranberry scoop | Apr 07, 2017 09:01

Hey, Thanks Peter. I'm on it.



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