Friday, January 21, 2000
Board rules Flannery path not a town road
Trying to put closure on a simmering problem between neighbors, the board of selectmen voted on January 11 that the path running from land owned by Walter Flannery on Baldwin Road over town-owned conservation land and near land owned by Bill and Margie McCormick to Bellows Hill Road is not a town road. The conservation commission, which met jointly with the selectmen that evening, agreed and reiterated its position that vehicles may not be driven over conservation land.
Comments by Bill McCormick and Walter Flannery, son of the current owner, dominated the tightly controlled discussion. McCormick stated that he bought his property in 1997 after conducting a standard search of the real estate records which revealed no road. At the time of the purchase, said McCormick, there was a locked gate on the property. McCormick, who has obtained a supporting legal opinion from Hill and Barlow, asserted that there is no basis for the claim that there is a public road over his property and that he is tired of being harassed. "We just want to live in peace," he concluded.
Flannery, on the other hand, presented to the selectmen a 1928 letter from the board of assessors identifying the path as a "right of way." Moreover, Flannery stated that his father drives through the path once a year "to keep the road open," and that he has been doing this continuously since 1939 on instructions from his father. He also asserted that the 1970 Town Meeting vote to abandon all roads except those listed on a certain plan (the Flannery path was not listed) may have been illegal. When asked by selectman John Ballantine why it was important for him to have access to Bellows Hill Road when he already has access to Baldwin Road, Flannery responded, "It's there, and that's the point."
Conservationist Ken Harte commented that on all town maps dating back to 1875, the path was never designated as an existing road. He also stated that, as a matter of policy, the ConsCom should not decide that someone can drive over conservation land unless the claimant proves his right. Harte said that it is up to the courts to decide whether Flannery has prescriptive rights over this property.
Over the objection of Ballantine, who thought the legal opinion should be made public, the board and ConsCom voted to go into executive session to discuss matters affecting potential litigation, and specifically to discuss the opinion by town counsel on the town's rights and obligations on this matter. After approximately one hour in executive session, the board voted that, after careful consideration which included the 1970 Town Meeting vote and the recent town counsel opinion, the path was not a town road. The ConsCom then made its assertion that vehicle use is not permitted over conservation land, and the hearing ended.
© 2000 The Carlisle Mosquito