Road to reclassification: Brattleboro considers changes
BRATTLEBORO — After site visits at Bittersweet Lane, Minshall Road and Wickopee Hill Road as part of a public hearing Tuesday, the Select Board continued conversations about proposed road reclassifications.
"There was some discussion among Select Board members and members of the public of what was going on at the various locations and we did our best to record those," said Select Board Chairman David Gartenstein, referring to a tape recorder used to document the comments. "We certainly can't represent that the tape recording is a full record of everything that was said at those site visits."
The board will be scheduling a deliberative session. This differs from an executive session, Gartenstein explained, as it allows the board to make a decision on a quasi-judicial issue in private. A public vote is not required. The board has 60 days after the hearing to issue a written decision.
The only other way roads could be reclassified or discontinued would be by petition. Signatures from 5 percent of the town's voters would be needed.
Minshall Street, which is off Canal Street, connects to Organ Street and then Birge Street. According to Town Attorney Bob Fisher, the road was first recorded by the town in 1895. Currently, the street is a Class 3 highway, meaning the town maintains it all year.
Daniel Oles, owner of Kresge's Alignment Services on 239 Canal Street, requested the town discontinue the road from Canal Street to its intersection with Organ Street. Abutters and neighbors wanted to ensure their access would not change.
"I have absolutely no problem with any of these guys' requests. I'm actually not trying to take any more land or less land from anybody. I'm just trying not to make it a town road. I'm trying to stop thru traffic," Oles responded. "I'm willing to work with the abutters."
The road can become dangerous. Oles said it gets icy in the winter and people will drive down the street fast in the summer.
If approved, Oles plans to pave and plow the road. His major concerns revolve around safety. He noted a number of break-ins had occurred and a car window was recently smashed to gain entry.
But if the road turns into private property, Gartenstein warned, police would not be patrolling through there.
Peter Fillion owns Carpenter Farm at the end of Wickopee Hill Road. While researching whether the road was an old thru road to Dummerston, Fisher found some evidence of a former road bisecting the farm property and connecting with a road in Dummerston. But he said there was no legal basis to say the road was a public road.
Options include reclassifying Wickopee Hill Road to Class 4 from its intersection with Pleasant Valley Road and leaving the existing gate; reclassifying the road to Class 4 but moving its gate near the intersection of Wickopee Hill and Pleasant Valley roads; one of those two options but discontinuing 0.10 miles of Wickopee Hill Road from the intersection of Gulf Road to the farm; or keep the road as is.
Fillion requested the town discontinue 0.10 miles of the road from the intersection of the Gulf Road to the end of Wickopee Hill Road near his farm, reclassify 0.17 miles of Class 3 roadway on Wickopee Hill Road from Pleasant Valley Road to Gulf Road to Class 4, move the town gate on Gulf Road from the intersection of Wickopee Hill Road to the town's property line and install a gate on the Wickopee Hill Road near the intersection of Pleasant Valley Road.
His 182-acre property is in a source protection area of the Pleasant Valley Watershed. Brattleboro Director of Public Works Steve Barrett said Fillion plans to construct a single-family home there and limit the amount of growth on the land.
"This will help protect our water supply at Pleasant Valley, reduce road maintenance and still provide an access for fire protection on the watershed property," Barrett wrote in a memo. "Hikers will also be able to use the roadway for access into the town's property."
That was an issue neighbors worried about. They did not want to discourage hikers, horseback riders or hunters from using a trail.
"We enjoy very much having it participate in our community," said Stewart McDermott referring to he and his wife.
From the late 2000s to 2015, towns could investigate and make claims on whether they wanted take over ancient roads, Gartenstein said. The effort had to do with the Vermont Legislature's long history of disputed claims over roads. Some towns formed committees or assigned officials to the task but Brattleboro did not.
A few years ago, the board started looking into whether the road from the Carpenter Farm to Wickopee Hill Road to the Dummerston town line had ever been designated as a town road of Brattleboro. The road was used as a main thoroughfare from Marlboro to the south and Dover to the north, Gartenstein said, having looked at maps from the 1880s or 1870s. But Fisher and Barrett could not find a point where the road was a Brattleboro town road.
"As I understand it, what used to be Wickopee Hill Road I think is owned by Mr. Fillion and it's his private property," Gartenstein said. "And it's sad, but that's not what's in front of the board."
The Department of Public Works is requesting that Bittersweet Lane, which is currently a private roadway located off of East Orchard Street, be classified as a Class 3 town highway. This change would make the town responsible for maintenance year round. The 500-foot long road is subject to a development agreement between the town and Cersosimo Industries.
In September, the company requested that the town take over the road. In January, Barrett recommended accepting the road as a town highway.
Fisher said the pre-requisites to the town taking over the road have been met by Cersosimo. The road was constructed to town specifications and a minimum of three houses have been constructed along the roadway. Seven lots were constructed off East Orchard Street.
An agreement between the town and Cersosimo from 2007 allows the town a 10-year period to accept the road as a town highway. The town is not required to take over ownership of the road.
Contact Chris Mays at firstname.lastname@example.org or 802-254-2311, ext. 273.
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