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BOS Planning Committee Recommendation: No More Private Roads



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After extensive research, analysis and discussion, the Ad Hoc Committee for Policy and Planning for Roads has recommended that the town develop an updated policy regarding roads. Those recommendations include a complete overhaul of local ordinances regarding local roads.Recommendations DetailedIdentify Conforming Factors

The committee includes Chairman Anthony Filiato, Secretary Eva Zimmerman, Legislative Council Chair Mary Ann Jacob, Anthony Klabonski, Public Works Director Fred Hurley, and Deputy Town Planning Director Rob Sibley.

Ms Zimmerman and Ms Jacob are among committee members who reside in private lakeside associations.

Mr Filiato, who also serves on the Legislative Council, told selectmen during the presentation that currently, about half the local public roadways meet all local standards for condition and safety.

"In many ways we're in good shape," Mr Filiato said, adding that Mr Hurley indicated that only 80 percent of local roads could ever meet ideal standards because of geography or other factors.

Mr Filiato also noted that to bring that added 30 percent of roads up to optimal condition will be costly and take many years. He also said that private roads under the ownership of various lakeside or waterfront associations or their residents may never get to the point where they can bring those roads up to optimal condition to meet even basic public safety access.

"The policy on maintaining roads owned by private associations hasn't been updated in a long time," he said. "It's going to be an increasing challenge as repair and maintenance becomes ever more expensive, to the point where some of those associations won't be able to afford it."

Other associations that still have deeds to roadways are not active, Mr Filiato said, and perhaps most concerning is many residents who reside in private association communities may have no knowledge that these are private roads.

He clarified that repairing any road - even a major repair - must be done in the event that year-round public safety and emergency access is compromised. Any active private association that wants to be proactive about getting roads repaired or maintained must do so in coordination with the town, and must cover the costs themselves.

Mr Hurley said to achieve the committee's goal, the town must codify or simplify a process of bringing private roads into the town road system, and to prioritize restorations based on how or if each road's conditions compromise safety

In order for the town to accomplish the eventual restoration of deteriorating nonpublic roads, the committee recommended a number of actions.

The committee believes that the Legislative Council should be asked to update the existing roads ordinance incorporating these main ideas:

*All roads in Newtown should be maintained by the town;

*Unpaved roads should be considered for paving based on a cost-benefit analysis; roads that are too costly to maintain as unpaved should be paved;

*So-called "nonconforming" roads should be defined as all roads not currently accepted into the town road system;

*As some roads will never meet the current guidelines set forth in the existing policy for various reason (geography, etc), the ordinance should contain a list of exceptions for these roads that predate the current process to so that they may be accepted into the town road system;

*The council's Ordinance Committee should work with the Public Works Department to categorize these roads;

*A process by which the roads on the exception list are accepted as town roads should be detailed;

*All data regarding roads policy should be encapsulated under the umbrella of the updated roads ordinance so policy and procedures are clear moving forward;

*The reality of existing barriers to create optimal road width, right of ways, etc, needs to be considered;

*Active private associations with roads that are not part of the town roads system, should they wish to present their roads to the town for acceptance, should be responsible for the legal work required to correct ownership and other issues necessary for the town to legally accept said roads into the town roads system;

*In lieu of the existence of an active association where there are non-town-owned roads, the town should reserve the right, in the event of a public safety concern, to take over the roads.

In addition, the committee recommends that the Board of Selectman write a policy for roads to sit within the recommended ordinance changes that defines nonconforming roads base on paved or unpaved, sight lines, scenic, number of houses on the road and any other relevant concerns.

The town should continue the practice of sweeping, maintaining and plowing all roads that have three or more homes, and update the policy regarding same as necessary.

Also, the Board of Selectman should write and maintain a clear policy that defines the cost to a private association of upkeep on roads that the association wishes to remain private that includes anything beyond the normal and customary sweeping, patching and plowing.

First Selectman Pat Llodra said there has to be a public education campaign as part of the process to be sure property owners or association members understand the issue and potential cost implications involved in improving their roads.

The first selectmen said that in bringing all roads under town control, it will eliminate the issue of one or a few property owners blocking a few or many others on those roads from investing or sharing the cost in improvements.

Prior to unanimously recommending the council take up the task of organizing, overhauling and codifying an updated roads ordinance, Selectman Herb Rosenthal suggested benefit assessments be conducted to prove to each property owner how much of a boost in property values would come with those improvements.

Mrs Llodra also noted that as the resale value of each property improves it will concurrently raise the assessed value, thereby bringing in added property tax revenue.

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