The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, September 17, 1999


Cart path to Flannery land once again stirs controversy

A controversy that has been simmering all summer boiled over at the September 9 Carlisle Conservation Commission meeting. At first glance a simple neighborhood dispute, that it has not been resolved allowed it to overflow into the channels of government and involve the selectmen, the Carlisle Police Department and now ConsCom.

The commotion arises from a claim by Walter Flannery that an ancient cart path that starts at the end of Baldwin Road, then crosses land owned by Jonathan and Winifred Sachs, his own property, the town-owned Carr Conservation Land and finally the William McCormicks' lawn and driveway off Bellows Hill Road, is, in fact, a public way. This claim is rejected by the McCormicks, who together with the Sachses engaged the services of the law firm of Hill and Barlow to research Flannery's contention. Flannery has an easement off Baldwin Road to access the 13 acres which he owns. However, he does not have a road which would provide him with legal frontage.

It was the opinion of the attorneys as reported in a letter to the selectmen dated April 28,1999, that they could find no evidence to support Flannery's contention, and that the McCormick lawn and driveway "are not a public way of any kind." They noted further that the town, by vote of its 1970 Town Meeting, had discontinued all town ways other than those specifically listed in the article as presented. The path in question was not noted.

In 1978, the selectmen accepted a conservation restriction on the Bartlett Farm property, now owned by McCormick, that specifically prohibits the location of a town way across said property. The Carr Conservation Land in turn was acquired by the town in 1997 with a deed that contains no mention of a public road. It was this parcel, which is legally under ConsCom management, that brought McCormick before that board to request that they resolve once and for all whether the path is or is not a public way. He reported that Flannery had cut down brush and a tree on the land in order to facilitate passage of his truck to where he had caused a gate to be removed from the edge of their property. McCormick therefore urged that the commission also confirm the rules that apply to citizen action on conservation land.

In Flannery's defense

When two members of the audience rose to support Flannery, conservation administrator Katrina Proctor informed members that the claimant himself had been invited to attend the session but had declined. Residents Michael Balliestiero and Jack O'Connor testified that Flannery had shown them maps that clearly indicated the path in question crossing the conservation land and Bartlett Farm. O'Connor also questioned whether the Town Meeting action dropping town ways was in fact legal. Conservationist Ken Harte volunteered from the audience that the attorney general of the Commonwealth had approved the action at that time, while commissioner Carolyn Kiely observed that, in any event, the statute of limitations had run out on the 1970 vote.

Both Kiely and commissioner Eric Jensen commented that if ConsCom rules against cutting vegetation and driving trucks across conservation land were infringed, the person responsible should be restrained. Apparently less convinced, acting chair Tricia Smith countered that the path in question shows up on the U.S. Geologic Survey map as a cart path and suggested to McCormick that this was a matter between himself and an abutter. Commissioner John Lee took a middle position, noting that if a citizen is "abusing" conservation land, he should indeed be restrained, but in this case the facts needed to be ascertained and Flannery again invited to come before them with his version of events.

Proctor reminded the commission that the selectmen have asked town counsel to review the Hill and Barlow materials along with other pertinent documentation, so that they can make a formal decision on the status of the path. Members agreed to talk to Flannery while awaiting town counsel action. Contacted later by telephone, selectman John Ballantine said the selectmen had been "pretty well convinced that Flannery's claim was not valid," and if town counsel confirmed this opinion, a letter to that effect would be forthcoming.

Police seek clarification

Police Chief David Galvin, who was attending the meeting "looking for clarification" because the department had already been called in on at least three occasions by the principals in the dispute, desired further guidelines. He asked whether the police were to assume from now on that it is against ConsCom rules to drive a vehicle or cut down brush and trees on conservation property without the express consent of the commission. If so, he said he would appreciate it if such property were clearly marked, a condition that both he and commissioner Thomas Brownrigg had found to be lacking. The commissioners considered this to be "a fair request," and Smith declared the discussion ended pending an explanation from Flannery and, by inference, a decision from town counsel.

1999 The Carlisle Mosquito