Residents want town to own road

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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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. I’m way behind on reading and sharing my thoughts, but this one is ridiculous ! I agree whole heartedly with my cousin, but may say it more bluntly. If the folks on Oak Drive want to give the town a road, we’ll be happy to accept it WHEN IT’S A ROAD.

  2. When the water went by my house, I was whacked with a bill I never asked for or wanted, nobody came to my aid and said “Oh, we’ll pay for that”, I had a well and was and still am getting good water out of it. Now these folks want ME & YOU to pay for them??

    I’m already supporting enough of the entitled in this country, sorry but if you want the road, you pay for it!

    Accepting a private road that needs improvement opens a Pandora’s box.

  3. If Oak Drive residents want a town road it should be funded by the estate and the users on that road. They can amortize these improvements through betterment fees onto their property tax. It is criminal to think the town should step up and take ownership of their privately owned road. The initial estimate of $400k seems suspiciously low given the road’s existing state. Please note that the grade at Cedar is dangerous and would be unacceptable by today’s design standards (keep in mind the road needs stamped engineering design plans, full depth reconstruction, storm drainage, permitting and state involvement with route 42 and dumping water into their system, widening, and additional impacted utility work…ie, sanitary, water, & electric) . If the people would like to correct and fund all of these issues…the road should be accepted by the town. If not, it should remain as is…bottom line.

    Do not set this precedent and in anyway allow this to happen. It will only enable all private roads the legal opportunity to have their roads converted to town property at all taypayer’s expense.

  4. Shame on the BOS for giving the residents of Oak Drive any hope that the Town will accept Oak Drive in its present condition. The last time I checked trespassing was against the law. The previous owners (Father and Son) of that road had it blocked off and would chase trespassers who trespassed.

    The conditions of the roads in Beacon Falls are deplorable. When the roads that we tax payers drive on are repaired then and only then should you even discuss Oak Drive or any other private roads. And that is a can of worms; our neighbors at the 55+ communities should demand the same for their private roads. I see no difference. Thank God for that ordinance. Let’s hope that any meeting to change it is well publicized.
    I’ll be there to vote no!

  5. Oak Drive residents appear to deserve to have their road approved as a town road, but just like residents living within the age 55 communities, they were all aware of the private road they were buying property on and the implications of living there. That being true, if the town agrees to make Oak Drive a town road are we paving the way for all private roads in town to also qualify for this status. I guess I could support this one instance assuming that any ordinance change is very specific to Oak Drive.

    What I cannot agree to is paying for any road improvements assuming whatever agreement is settled upon requires such updates. It appears that there are a number of updates that would be very beneficial to have fixed today because long term not fixing them, they probably will be more expensive to fix years down the road. It looks to me that the town might bond for the repairs and attach the cost to the Oak Drive residents over 20 years. Other towns also have attached a special clause that upon the sale of the property, if there is an outstanding payment still due, the remaining balance is collected in full. I believe this was done to residents on Burton Road when the water or sewer line was installed.

    This may not be a popular stance, but I see only two options: the town not take the road or the town does, but the residents of Oak Drive must pay any costs to make this happen.