Friday, August 31, 2001
Board, Valchuis, abutters lock horns
"We reject your offer." Planning board chairman Michael Abend addressed this remark at the August 20 meeting to Michael Valchuis and his attorney Howard Speicher, regarding their proposed maintenance agreement for Berry Corner Lane, a private drive. Abend continued, "We want to have an enforceable maintenance agreement."
Valchuis and the planning board have been locked in litigation for four years over the board's refusal to approve Valchuis' lot with frontage on the private road. The roadway, which was built under earlier regulations, does not meet current standards for a common drive. The board contends that since the existing roadway has not been maintained as a subdivision roadway and is "otherwise a dirt driveway" a maintenance agreement would ensure its future upkeep. A maintenance agreement is routinely required under current rules and regulations but was not part of the regulations at the time this private roadway was approved. Nonetheless the board is pressing the issue. The board noted that the town plows the road and neighbors have informally maintained the road.
Valchuis had agreed to improve the entire roadway and provided a proposal for maintenance of the roadway improvements, but only on his property. The planning board wants the agreement to encompass the entire roadway and all abutters. Speicher represented the board's request as "one person on the west side [Valchuis] is going to be on the hook for [maintaining] the entire road. But the people who live on the east side get 1,500 feet of roadway maintained for nothing. It isn't fair to say that we will pay the additional cost. We are asking you, the board, to recognize that this is an unusual situation; it is not a common drive."
Abutters have not supported Valchuis and appear to be an obstacle to executing a maintenance agreement. Keith Therrien, a Berry Corner Lane resident, described his opposition to the maintenance agreement and to the approval of an additional house lot. "Yes, it has become personal. How would you feel if someone came and said they were going to start using your private road?"
Both sides have dug in their heels. Valchuis asserted, "The board has left us no alternative but to pursue the litigation. And that is what we are going to do." Illustrating the emotional tenor of this matter, board member Michael Epstein began, "We've tried to be fair," and then continued, "It is not a question of being fair. If you go ahead with the litigation, we won't be blessing [the creation of the lot]."
The details of the planning board's discussions are buried in executive sessions, but the question remains whether the planning board is trying to apply today's laws to yesterday's road. Board chairman Abend stated, "Basically it comes down to the fact that we think it is in the best interest of the town as a whole."
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