Ruling favors Oak Drive residents


Beacon Falls to provide some services for private road

A car drives on Munson Road past the intersection of Oak Drive in Beacon Falls in May 2014. –FILE PHOTO
A car drives on Munson Road past the intersection of Oak Drive in Beacon Falls in May 2014. –FILE PHOTO

BEACON FALLS — After more than a year of fighting with the town to adopt their road as a public road, residents of Oak Drive got some of what they asked for thanks to a court ruling.

Now, residents of another private road are looking for the same treatment.

Oak Drive, which was built in 1972, is a two-lane, 2,000-foot private roadway with nine residences on it. It is frequently used by motorists as a cut-through between Munson Road and Cedar Drive.

In May 2014, Oak Drive residents requested the Board of Selectmen officially accept their road as a town road. Residents wanted the road to be accepted by the town because it would grant them amenities, such as curbside trash collection, plowing and road repairs.

Town officials balked at accepting the road, at least until it was brought up to town code. The main issue with the road is it varies in width from 24 feet to 30 feet. A town ordinance states a road must have a uniform width of at least 30 feet in order to be accepted as an official town road.

In July 2014, Oak Drive residents sued the town. In September, the court ruled partially in favor of the residents of Oak Drive.

The ruling stipulates that the town has to offer curbside trash collection, keep the road plowed, maintain the catch basins along the road and implement remedial work, such as filling potholes and sealing cracks.

However, according to the judgment, the road still remains a private road and under the ownership of Oak Drive Enterprises, LLC.

First Selectman Chris Bielik said the judge reached the ruling based on the facts that residents of other roads use Oak Drive as a cut-through, the Water Pollution Control Authority received an easement for sewer connections to run through the back of the Oak Drive area from Cedar Lane, and the Zoning Board of Appeals had granted a number of variances at properties along the road.

“So, there were a number of factors that made the judge feel like there was a judgement to be made in partial favor of the residents of Oak Drive,” Bielik said.

The judgment came as welcome news to Oak Drive residents.

“It was never supposed to be a private road to begin with. We feel that since we pay taxes we should be able to receive the services,” Oak Drive resident Frank Samplensky said. “I’m very happy with it. Everybody on the street is happy.”

With the Oak Drive matter settled, residents of the private road Sharon Drive want the town to provide services to their road, as well.

Chris Schwenger and Jean Opuszynski, who both live on Sharon Drive, came before the Board of Selectmen on Dec. 14 to ask that the town accept their road.

Schwenger said Sharon Drive is paved, has public storm drainage and ample room for all emergency vehicles. He added the gradient and condition of the road is far above that of Oak Drive.

“It is our hope that Beacon Falls will extend the residences of Sharon Drive equivalent services to that which is being offered to our fellow taxpayers without any additional matters being pursued,” Schwenger told the board.

Schwenger said residents of Sharon Drive, which is a dead end street off of Cook Lane with a handful of homes, want the town to provide plowing and trash collection.

Bielik said the only reason the town is now providing services to residents on Oak Drive is that it was mandated to by the court.

“One of the stipulations of this ruling is that it is not precedent setting in any way for any other private road in town. Because of the unique nature of Oak Drive our contention is that it has no bearing on what else is happening on any other private road in this town. Therefore our intention is to honor the stipulated judgement that was given for Oak Drive and no others,” Bielik said.

However, Bielik said he would look into whether trash collection can be extended to Sharon Drive at no additional cost to the town. He also offered to have Town Attorney Fred Stanek come to the next meeting to provide more information on the Oak Drive ruling.

Opuszynski felt it’s unfair that she has to pay the same taxes as other residents but doesn’t receive the same services.

“Everybody on Oak Drive doesn’t have to pay additional taxes for all this. Yet we’re paying the same taxes as the people on Oak Drive,” Opuszynski said.

Bielik said not all residents can access all services the town provides, but are still required to pay their taxes.

“Paying taxes is not a matter of picking and choosing or getting things from column A and column B. A bill is a bill and you pay the entire thing. The vast majority of the tax bill you receive right now, probably 70 percent of it or more, goes to (the) Region 16 (school district) every year. You have no children in Region 16, but you can’t use as an excuse, ‘I don’t have children in the school system, so I shouldn’t pay 70 percent of my tax bill.’ It’s exactly the same thing, if you’re not getting services that other people in town are paying for,” Bielik said.