The town will release a portion of Lawrence Street from possible public interest, after being given three options by Public Works Director Mike Fowler and choosing one. Resident Steve Robichaud of 12 Lawrence St. had submitted a formal request for the release of public interest. The right-of-way is between Beacon and Sargent streets and was dedicated in 1902.
The section was a “paper street” and never developed as a town road, Fowler said. Robichaud’s original request was for the town to release 240 feet by 40 feet. The Trow family of Lawrence Street, abutters to the parcel, had challenged the request. Nancy Trow said she owns three lots on Lawrence Street and needed the right-of-way for access to one of them, should she develop it. Trow also said she maintained part of the right-of-way, mowing it and planting flowers.
The discussion was continued from June 18 to July 9, and from July 9 to the Aug. 6 meeting. While the Council directed the neighbors to come up with an acceptable solution for all, Fowler said in the July 9 meeting that the best they came up with was “palatable.”
The “palatable” solution at that time was to modify the original request to a section 180 feet by 40 feet, in order to accommodate both Trow and Robichaud. But neither the Council nor the abutters were completely happy, and the Council directed Fowler to do more research into what the change would look like, and come back in the August meeting.
Acting Town Administrator Larry Budreau prepared a memo for the Council and public, including three options clarified by using the town Geographic Information System and aerial photos.
The options listed were as follows:
• Robichaud’s updated original petition, release of public interest 20 feet beyond the edge of the pavement, 230 x 40 feet.
• Releasing the area ending at telephone pole #75, a compromise worked out between Town Administrator John Anderson and the Trows, 170 x 40 feet.
• Ending the area of public interest at the property line between Parcel 26082, the Jeanette Brady property at 15 Beacon St., and Parcel 26084, the Trow property, 208 x 40 feet.
Budreau wrote in the memo, “There is value in approving one of the three motions, as it should conclude the town’s involvement in this issue and allow the future property owners to privately address title issues.”
But Budreau also wrote that after Fowler’s research, they learned “there is some uncertainty as to the private ownership status of the right-of-way.” And Fowler said in the meeting, “There is no clear information and some ‘cloud’ as to whether it actually is a public right-of-way.” He said the 1902 dedication wasn’t clear.
Councilors Al Dimmock and Brad Benson questioned whether the Council should even be voting on the options, if it has no current interest in the right-of-way. “Why are we doing anything?” Benson said.
Dimmock asked Fowler, “You said you weren’t sure we had the right-of-way. What are we voting on?”
“You are declaring,” Fowler said, “that you have no more interest in the property, and releasing whatever interest you have.”
Benson clarified, “When you do a release of public interest, it is split down the middle and goes to the abutters. I don’t understand why we’re the ones making the decision.”
Fowler said the private owner who had the land in 1902 may still own it, though it was most likely his heirs.
Benson pointed out, “If we take no action, then the abutters will deal with the heirs.” “You may still have to declare you have no interest,” Fowler countered. Budreau said the town could table the release and revisit it if there was any confusion with the abutters and heirs, and Benson made a motion to table it. But the vote was evenly split, 3 to 3, and failed.
A motion was made to vote on Option 1, the 230 feet by 40 feet originally proposed by Robichaud. Councilors Phyllis Katsakiores, Mark Osborne, Tom Cardon and Dimmock voted yes, with Chairman Michael Fairbanks and Benson voting no.
“I don’t support any of them,” Benson said of the options.
The motion passed, 4-2. Councilor Neil Wetherbee was not present