October 8, 2012

Some contest Jefferson road taking

By Paul Koenig pkoenig@centralmaine.com
Staff Writer

JEFFERSON -- Town officials are trying to validate the width of Goose Hill Road so the records are clear and the town can maintain it.

But some residents are crying foul, saying it's a power grab by the town to take away property rights.

The town wants residents to confirm town officials' assertion that right-of-way for the road is three rods wide and that the town has an easement for the use of that width. Residents will vote on the referendum question Nov. 6.

The width of the paved road varies between 14 and 20 feet, according to Road Commissioner Alan Johnston. But he said the town needs the three-rod width -- at 16.5 feet a rod, that's 49.5 feet -- to properly ditch some parts of the road.

Members of the select board say the title for the easement, including the width of the right-of-way, has been lost.

But some residents on Goose Hill Road disagree about what the width of the right-of-way is and say the town should compensate them for taking their property if the town begins ditching and cutting brush within the 49 feet.

Selectman James Hilton said the need for the referendum arose when a Goose Hill Road resident, Victoria Burbank, objected to the town putting in ditches near her home. He said the town's attorney, Lee Bragg, suggested the referendum as a way to allow the town to dig ditches near her home.

"We just have this one individual who is basically holding up the whole work, as far as ditching around that area," Hilton said, referring to Burbank.

Burbank said Johnston took out part of her rock wall when they ditched the road in early September. Johnston denied removing part of the rock wall.

After the ditching, part of her property floods when it rains, so she blocked the trench with debris.

Johnston said water now runs down the road when it rains.

Burbank said because of the flooding, she can no longer use the two-acre field across the street from her house for her horses.

"They should be able to come up with way to deal with a water situation. I should not be the one that has to receive all the runoff," she said.

Circumstantial evidence

Bragg said that although there isn't a physical record of the allowed width of the road, there is circumstantial evidence indicating it's three rods wide.

He said there are rock walls three rods apart in some sections of the road, which could indicate the width of the road when it was first laid out, and the town has taken care of the road three-rods wide by ditching and maintaining the ditching. He also said the town of Waldoboro considers Orff's Corner Road, which directly connects to Goose Hill Road, three rods.

Darryl L. McKenney, the assessors agent for Waldoboro, said he thinks the town considers the allowed width of Orff's Corner Road to be four rods.

Burbank said the right-of-way was never three rods in front of her property, which she bought in 1979. She said it was a narrow dirt road then, and the town used to close it during the spring.

Bragg said the town acquired the rights to the easement for highway purposes through prescriptive use, which means the town can claim it after 20 years or more of uninterrupted continuous use.

"What I really think is going to happen is they're going to take their easement, and they can do what they want," said Suzanne Hamilton, who lives on Goose Hill Road. Hamilton said the town will be able to remove rock walls and cut down trees without compensating homeowners. She also said she thinks the town is trying to pass the referendum so it can widen the road for commercial trucks.

(Continued on page 2)

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