Road Commissioners pull back on controversial bylaw

By Matthew Bernat | Apr 18, 2017
Photo by: Matthew Bernat Selectman Chair Peter Teitelbaum, left, and Selectman Alan Slavin review a proposed bylaw change that will be before voters on April 24.

The Wareham Road Commissioners made a U-turn on a controversial bylaw that would have dramatically altered how “unaccepted” streets in town are maintained.

Instead of the sweeping changes initially proposed, the commissioners have recommended rules that slightly tweak the existing bylaw. The bylaw change will be voted on at the April 24 Town Meeting, set for 7 p.m. in the Wareham High School auditorium.

Road Commissioner Chair Bill Heaney said the switch came about following a policy change Selectmen approved just last week.

“When you see the new article, lay it side by side with the existing bylaw, everything is the same except for three issues,” said Heaney.

In it’s original draft, the Unaccepted Way Bylaw was the subject of a packed public forum where many were in opposition. Selectmen, speaking about the bylaw last month, questioned the commissioners about several aspects.

Under the bylaw, residents of “unaccepted roads” would have needed to pay for town labor and materials to bring those streets up to certain standards designed to ensure town plows wouldn’t be damaged while working.

Unaccepted roads refers to streets that haven’t been approved as rights of ways by the town. Those roads are open to the public and often are undistinguishable from accepted roads.

The bylaw would not have affected private roads, which are not eligible for town maintenance and are closed to the public.

The costs would have been 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 have required 5 percent of road abutters to request opting into the maintenance program; however, 51 percent of abutters would have needed to sign a petition in order to opt back out.

On Tuesday, Heaney presented Selectmen with a copy of the altered bylaw. Changes include language that says the town’s municipal maintenance director will determine when routine repairs must be made to unaccepted roads and that the labor and equipment to do so will be provided by the town.

Heaney noted that the commissioners approved the changes at their meeting held two hours before the Selectmen’s meeting.

Because the changes were received late, Selectmen declined to vote on a recommendation until they had time to review it. Board members are expected to provide a recommendation on Monday.

Comments (20)
Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 19, 2017 09:03

So in other words, Wareham is now on the hook to repair and maintain PRIVATE ROADS, So wrong in so many ways. Wareham is screwed.

Posted by: WWareham resident | Apr 19, 2017 09:50

SPHEREBREAKER, no that is not the case here. The article says

The bylaw would not have affected private roads, which are not eligible for town maintenance and are closed to the public.

Unless I am reading this totally wrong the Private Roads are not eligible for any town services without paying additional funds for those services.

What I don't understand is why this is coming up now? They just voted to jack up our, undrinkable, water bill and now this? Another way to stick it to the residents that pay the highest dollar amount in property taxes. I am not saying we pay a different tax rate but my property taxes have gone from approx $4100 in 2005 to now a 2017 tax bill of $5,361 for absolutely no services at all, well, except the aforementioned, undrinkable, town water.

This is sickening and theCorrupt Selectmen in this town are a complete and total joke. What's next?

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 19, 2017 11:07

"On Tuesday, Heaney presented Selectmen with a copy of the altered bylaw. Changes include language that says the town’s municipal maintenance director will determine when routine repairs must be made to unaccepted roads and that the labor and equipment to do so will be provided by the town."   Seems pretty clear that they will no longer be charging the $400 per home for repairs to the unaccepted roads aka private roads so they will be plowable. This is not right!

Posted by: cranky pants | Apr 19, 2017 11:21

Define private road vs paper road ?

They consider my road a paper road...

Posted by: Uptohere | Apr 19, 2017 11:30

This seems like an end run around voters. And they have mucked it up so bad it isn't even clear if you will be voting the way you want.  Someone put it in clear language. I think it should not be brought up to vote at all until Wareham voters know ...clearly... Exactly, What they will be voting on.

Posted by: Uptohere | Apr 19, 2017 11:32

But if I'm reading this article correctly I will be voting NO.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 19, 2017 11:33


  If the Town has not accepted the road then its a private road. If the abutters choose to let the general public use it, that's their business not the Towns.

Posted by: Linda | Apr 19, 2017 13:42

I may be missing something..........but for example,  Shangri-La, Wareham Lake Shores, etc. (developments) built 60 yrs ago by two brothers (from Boston) full of promises to the buyers of these homes that they would have street lights and tarred roads so the roads were not put out for the town to accept them.  I don't know if they are now. 

If the Town of Wareham has not accepted a road, it is an "unaccepted road", that anyone can drive on.   There are roads in Onset, the Neck, etc.  that are private and are posted as private property which means the general public cannot trespass and the town maintains neither unaccepted nor private.       So.............private roads are that way by the owner's choice.      Now, a lot of homes in the developments are not owned by the original owners and who knows if they even knew their streets were unaccepted. 

I think this is all bull shit!  Those on unaccepted roads pay the same taxes as those on accepted roads.  Where is the municipal maint. director about repairing Papermill Rd., Depot St., Tyler Ave., all of PINEHURST and roads approaching it?  Not picking on him - just accept the roads, fix the roads!

Oh, and M.M. told everyone to remove everything from the cemeteries 2 yrs ago as they were going to cut down overgrown trees, shrubs & bushes.  My parents have perpetual care and it means they mow, and not well.


Posted by: Theresa ONeill | Apr 19, 2017 19:10

If a developer never finishes the job ( making the roads "acceptable")  this is the responsibility of those in the development to do so.

Part of the problem with wareham is it pays for things it shouldn't (such as maintaining unaccepted roads, cleaning up private property hazmat debris, lots of law suits, and purchasing and maintaining property such as tremont nail factory) , and not providing services that should be covered - repairing streetlights / sidewalks throughout Onset. Trash pick up.



Posted by: Fortywhat2 | Apr 20, 2017 06:17

Linda,  I live in Wareham Lake Shores and all of our roads were accepted by the town years ago.  Before they would pave and maintain they had to be accepted.  Prior to that they were dirt roads.  I personally voted against them being accepted because people couldn't fly up the roads like they do now.  Our beaches however are still privately owned by our association. A ribbon stating that you are a current paid member is required to use the beaches.

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 20, 2017 07:17

Bravo Theresa!

Posted by: WWareham resident | Apr 20, 2017 11:11

SPHEREBREAKER, unaccepted needs to be 100% clarified. I recall from the last post on this months ago that all unaccepted roads are not considered private and all private roads are not on the unaccepted list.

Andrea had sent me a list of each that I saved to my old laptop that Windows 10 updates fried so I no longer have them.


Andrea, if you are seeing this  can you jump in and let us know your take on accepted versus unaccepted roads and which are which?

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 20, 2017 12:37

Unaccepted Rd is Private road where abutters/private road owners allow anyone to use road or allow trespassing.


Private Rd is Private road that is open to abutters and guests only.

Posted by: Linda | Apr 20, 2017 13:58

fortywhat2 ~  a family member bought & built in WLS when there were 10 - 12 cottages.  He & neighbor were building their own.  I used to know all but 2-3 owners.  I saw the way the beaches were made, land bulldozed and truck after truck of sand dumped - pretty much like quick sand near the water before it was spread out.  Good roads bring out the race track drivers - everywhere.  ;(                   THERESA~~Born & raised in Wareham.  For the last 40 yrs. I've been watching residents at Town Meeting spend money like a drunken sailor.  There are 2 ways to run a town - like a household budget or like your own business.  I don't agree with buying land for conservation, FOR EXAMPLE, if we don't have the $$$.  I believe we have spent too much on Shaver-Hood, too much on legal fees & our sitting attorney who, when asked a ? says he's not sure but will research it and charges us for it.  This town, my town needs to reel in the spending.    Where was the private property hazmat debris? 


Posted by: WWareham resident | Apr 20, 2017 16:16

@Linda I believe they are referring to Tremont Nail property that is contaminated. Just my guess.

I could not agree with you more about the spending by our Selectmen, it is sickening and they really should be more responsible with our tax dollars. I said it in the past, the conservation land purchases off Papermill are a joke and complete waste of money. NO ONE goes to that bog on Papermill by the bridge they are rebuilding, and why are they totally rebuilding that bridge while we're on the subject? The railing could have been replaced for a fraction of the cost but no, this town needs to spend spend spent and they will just raise our ridiculously high taxes for what we get out of them. I personally, have no services by my home in West Wareham off Papermill Rd. We don't even have a police patrol, they don't come to West Wareham unless they are called. I pay taxes just like everyone else does and get absolutely nothing for that money except undrinkable water and headaches.

Posted by: wtbarber | Apr 20, 2017 16:40

Can we vote to make all Wareham roads public?

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 21, 2017 07:24

If you think roads are bad now, vote to accept all the streets in Wareham. The road  repair budget would be spread so thin you would need to ride a horse to Town meeting to change it back.

Posted by: Linda | Apr 21, 2017 18:10

Well, I do remember a lot of dirt rds. in town when I was young. Grading them is probably cheaper than tar, lol.  Riding horses to town meeting sounds so romantic, lol.


Posted by: Fossil | Apr 24, 2017 02:26

This is the towns bad management in the past, should never let builders sign off on street unaccepted? Like a big game.  The thing is the present committee needs to step up and resolve the wrongs of the past. Lots a street are accepted streets that are not on the list. I know mine is one, was done years ago, gas, sewer, paved. name was changed years ago so who knows. They need a new evaluation and see what needs to be done. Get an real estimate and than vote on funds to get it done.

List of accepted streets if anyone wanted

Posted by: Spherebreaker | Apr 24, 2017 07:16

Fossil, The builders most likely left the sign off for acceptance to the Associations or abutters. Its not the Towns problem that the Associations or abutters haven't step up to the plate. I would be a heck NO on that vote

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