The Planning Board continued a vote to recommend a request for a building permit on the historic Jack’s Bridge Right of Way (ROW).
The only access to the lot is by Page Road, which is a Class VI road, according to Planning staff.
Property owner Susan Carl of Newbury told the Board she plans to build a single-family home on the nearly 8-acre parcel, which is assessed at $25,700.
“I’m just looking for a permit to start a possible process,” she said. “Without a building permit, there’s no reason to go forward.”
The issuance of a building permit on a Class VI road may only be granted with approval of the Town Council, after review and comment by the Planning Board.
State statute also requires notice of the limits of municipal responsibility and liability to be recorded in the registry of deeds, according to Code Enforcement Officer Richard Canuel.
The agreement affirms the Town is not responsible for maintenance or liable for damages resulting from use of the Class VI road.
Additionally, the agreement releases the Town from any loss or damage, including those incurred through failure to provide municipal emergency services as a result of the condition of the roadway; and requires the road be maintained to a width of 20 feet.
Although the release would be filed with the county Register of Deeds, members expressed concern over public safety if Fire and Police vehicles are unable to travel down the road in inclement weather.
Planning Director Colleen Mailloux said the Board may recommend the Town Council require specific standards for travel widths for emergency vehicles be met as a condition for approval of the building permit.
Additionally, Mailloux said the Town could require the property owner to install sprinklers in the proposed home to mitigate the potential for Fire crews to face challenges accessing the structure
While Carl said the road is passable, members said without more information about the condition of the access and input from Police and Fire, they’re not comfortable recommending the building permit.
Member Al Sypek said he would additionally like to see an agreement that states the property owner would be responsible for damages to town equipment and apparatus sustained on the Class VI road, resulting from a call for Fire and Police to the proposed residence.
Mailloux said the courts have upheld decisions to deny building permits because emergency access was an issue.
In addition to access for emergency responders, the Board expressed concern over how neighbors living on the Class VI road would share the responsibility of its maintenance.
“Cost sharing for maintenance is a question. It’s a civil matter, but it’s something the Council will have to take into consideration,” Mailloux said. “Other property owners are already maintaining a certain length of the road.”
Ex-Officio member Giovanni Verani of Page Road, who recused himself from the discussion as he’s a neighbor of the proposed residence, said maintaining their portion of the Class VI gravel road road is very labor intensive.
“We’re always putting down more gravel and plowing it up in winter,” he said. “When there are issues like terrible storms, where trees come across the lane, we’re the ones out there with chainsaws cutting up the trees and clearing the way.”
With many of his neighbors being family members, Verani said agreements over maintenance haven’t been an issue.
But with the potential for future property owners to take over and the challenges that failure to maintain the road would cause, Verani expressed concern over how agreements would be established and upheld.
“If I don’t maintain my portion of the road, they can’t get to their home. And I don’t want to be maintaining their portion,” he said.
In regard to members’ concerns over emergency access to the proposed residence, Verani said Fire crews have responded to the area in the past.
“They do come,” he said. “My mom is elderly and she has had issues from time to time and emergency crews made it out there. We have had times when the bus driver can’t come and they’ll notify us and we’ll take them to school.”
However, Verani noted emergency crews have never had to respond to their road in inclement weather.
Members agreed they would like the town attorney to weigh in on an agreement between the private parties.
“In my mind, there are a lot of unanswered questions,” Sypek said, noting the Board must additionally consider whether or not there are wetlands on the property or in the area of the road. “I wouldn’t be comfortable making a decision at this time. There’s still a lot of information we don’t have.”
“This is really dealing with a lot of unknowns,” chairman Art Rugg agreed.
The Board plans to seek input from Police and Fire at its next meeting, in addition to visiting the property to observe the topography of the area and the road.
A vote to recommend the building permit to the Town Council was continued to their June 1 meeting.