Residents want town to own road

A car drives on Munson Road past the intersection of Oak Drive in Beacon Falls on May 27. Oak Drive is a private road that connects Munson Road and Cedar Drive. Residents want the town to take ownership of the road. –LUKE MARSHALL

A car drives on Munson Road past the intersection of Oak Drive in Beacon Falls on May 27. Oak Drive is a private road that connects Munson Road and Cedar Drive. Residents want the town to take ownership of the road. –LUKE MARSHALL

BEACON FALLS — Some residents are hoping their private road will be recognized by the town.

Earlier this month residents, James Galligan of the Northford-based engineering firm Nafis & Young and town attorney Steven Byrne came together for a special meeting to discuss the status of Oak Drive.

According to the town, Oak Drive is a two-lane, 2,000-foot private roadway with nine residences that was constructed in 1972.

The road was originally built and maintained by the late James Wisniewski, who developed the homes on Oak Drive. According to Byrne, Wisniewski’s estate is going through the probate process. This means that his estate is likely responsible for caring for Oak Drive.

However, Wisniewski’s heirs can decline ownership of the development, which means no one would legally own the road, according to Byrne.

Even though it is designated as a private road, Oak Drive is frequently used by motorists as a cut-through between Munson Road and Cedar Drive.

“One of the problems with the road is that it is not just used by you folks who live on the road, but it is used as a cut through road. A lot of people feel it should be accepted by the town because the townspeople use the road as well as the people who live on Oak Drive,” Galligan said.

Over a year ago the town asked Nafis & Young to study what improvements would be necessary before accepting Oak Drive as a town road, Galligan said.

According to the report, the main issue with the road is it varies in width from 24 feet to 30 feet. Byrne said town has an ordinance that states a road must have a uniform width of at least 30 feet in order to be accepted as an official town road.

This ordinance “was established to so that the town does not have to accept a road not constructed in an acceptable manner,” Byrne said.

Since this is an ordinance, the town is unable to accept any road that does not meet the standard, Byrne said.

In addition to widening the roadway the report recommends the replacement or instillation of over 600 feet of stormwater pipes, the complete excavation of the roadway from the Burton Road intersection to the Cedar Lane intersection, repaving the roadway, and replacing driveway aprons.

All of the work that needs to be done to bring the road into compliance with town standards will cost approximately $400,000, Gaffigan said.

Attorney Richard Volo, who is representing residents of Oak Drive, asked who would be responsible for paying for the work.

Town officials didn’t have a definitive answer at the time.

Oak Drive resident Frank Samplensky was upset that residents living on the road may have to pay the repair bill when other people use the road.

Our objection is who is going to pay for the road. These people are all using it, and they come down it at 90 miles per hour and we have to maintain it. That’s not fair,” Samplensky said.

Oak Drive resident Thomas Yoxall questioned why the road needed to be 30 feet wide, when making it narrower might help slow traffic down on the road. Yoxall pointed to a study done in Beacon Falls that recommended residential roads, such as Oak Drive, should have a width of 22 feet.

Galligan said there are different requirements for the width of roads throughout the different municipalities in Connecticut because it is up to the individual municipality. Since Beacon Falls has an ordinance that requires a 30-foot minimum, the road needs to meet that criterion.

“Personally I don’t think your road, if accepted, needs to be 30 feet. But that’s an ordinance and there’s a process you have to go through to change that. I can’t change it, I have to follow what the ordinance says,” Galligan said.

First Selectman Christopher Bielik explained that the Board of Selectmen would be unable to simply change the ordinance even if they felt inclined to do so.

In order to change an ordinance, Bielik explained, a request has to be submitted. It would then have to be reviewed by the town’s attorney, the various boards and commissions that would be affected by the ordinance. Finally, it would have to be passed by a town vote.

“Nobody sitting in this room all by themselves has the power to change an ordinance,” Bielik said. “It’s a check and balance on the system, and a good one.”

Residents also raised concerns about how work being done on town roads around them was having a direct impact on their roads and properties.

Oak Drive resident Joanne Larrow said the work that was done to remove water from Cedar Drive actually caused water damage to her back yard.

Oak Drive resident David Annelli echoed her concerns.

“The storm drains that are there and have been clogged, are they going to be dumping on my property,” Annelli asked.

Galligan said the drainage system along Oak Drive will be tied into the drainage system that runs along Route 42.

Selectman Peter Betkoski said the town is willing to work with the residents, but it will take some time.

“This isn’t something we’re going to fix in one night. We’ve got you here to try and work with you,” Betkoski said. “Can we modify this road? Maybe. But we’ve got a procedure to go through.”

The meeting was continued by the board to a date to be determined.