The latest topic of conversation in coffee shops, hairdressers, and the transfer station is the topic of discontinued roads. I will explain what discontinuing roads mean, how it’s done, and why it is considered in this initial blog.
Discontinuance of roads is a formal process established by State law for the purpose of terminating town ways, in whole or in part. The following process is necessary for the town to consider a road discontinuance:
- The municipal officers determine whose property abuts the road in question and the amount of damages that should be paid to those abutters. Damages must be paid to abutting property owners because of the reduction in the fair market value of their property as a result of the loss of a municipally maintained road. This is the step that the Selectmen are considering currently.
- The municipal officers must give best practicable notice of the proposed discontinuance to all abutting property owners and to the planning board. “Best practicable notice” means, at a minimum, mailing the notice through the U.S. Postal Service, postage prepaid, first class mail to abutting property owners whose addresses appear in the assessment records of the municipality. The Town of Boothbay will make sure notice will be made with all available resources.
- The municipal officers meet to discuss the proposed discontinuance at a public meeting. If they determine to proceed with the discontinuance, they should order the discontinuance. This notice is filed with the clerk. Subscribe to e-subscribe services (http://www.townofboothbay.org/subscribe) to stay informed of Selectmen’s Meetings.
- The next step is for the legislative body (Town Meeting) to approve the order of discontinuance and the damage awards, and to appropriate the money to pay the damages. Until this critical step occurs, the discontinuance is incomplete; if the legislative body rejects the order, the discontinuance fails.
- If the discontinuance is approved, is for the municipal clerk to record an attested certificate of road discontinuance in the registry of deeds.
What does discontinuance mean?
The town has the ability to exhaust all ownership rights through the process but most retain public easements. By retaining the public easement, roads that were once public become private with the authority to access publicly.
There are several reasons to retain the public easement on discontinued roads. The most important aspects are access for public safety and utility easements for future utility expansion and maintenance.
The private property owners then become responsible for the maintenance of the road in the future.
Why these roads?
Towns often consider discontinuance of roads because the roads are minimally used and placing an unfair burden to the rest of the taxpaying public. The roads being considered by the Town of Boothbay, in this process, are roads that have very few residences and no opportunity to become feeder roads. This means that they are dead end roads and similar to driveways.
The roads being considered are:
Sherman Cove Road
Like all good government decisions, road discontinuance is a process. Right now the process is at the very early stages of development. As the process develops there will be opportunity for public hearings. As always, the Selectman and I are always available to discuss any local issue.
Property owners are their own best advocates.
James D Chaousis II, Town Manager