Megan’s road still private

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PARIS – A developer who asked the town to take ownership of a road he created for his Farm View Vista subdivision off the Town Farm Road has been turned down.

Robert Ripley approached selectmen on Monday night with a request to make public his private road, which he has recently named Megan’s Way, in memory of his niece who was shot and killed in a hunting accident in December.

But the board made no motion,effectively taking no action.

This is the second case recently that has the board facing off against a developer over a road that does not meet town standards. The other situation involves Chris Stearns, who is protesting the town’s order to pave his 650-foot private road, which is linked to two other private dirt roads before joining a town road. That case is pending in court, after the town filed a suit against him last fall.

Issues like these highlight the tension around what happens to subdivision roads in small towns experiencing growth. As more land is divided into small neighborhoods, more roads are built, and towns have to determine the costs associated with adopting and maintaining new streets.

To prevent taking on the expense of upgrading low-quality roads, Paris has an ordinance that require subdivision owners build roads according to town specifications, which require a certain width, design and, most critically in these two cases, pavement.

But Ripley, back when he was gathering permits for his development last summer, was actually relieved by the town appeals board from having to pave his road, although he built it according to town’s specifications for gravel roads. Part of his appeal was based on his insistence that he would keep the dirt road private, according to Jackson.

She said Tuesday that she had advised the appeals board to not grant the waiver at the time.

A lawyer with the Maine Municipal Association urged Jackson in e-mails she released to the board to not accept the road into the town’s public network.

“I would strongly recommend against accepting this road as a town way,” Richard P. Flewelling wrote. “In the first place, the developer expressly represented to the town that the road would remain a private road, and he obtained a subdivision waiver of the paving requirement specifically on this basis. In effect, he is now asking the town to ‘forget what I said.'”

Moreover, Flewelling continued, Ripley’s road is connected to a private road, and the owners of that throughway would have to give Paris an easement so maintenance trucks and plowers could legally access Megan’s Way.

Ripley said that all along he had wanted to build a private road and that if he had had the choice, he would not have spent as much money – in this case it was $55,000 – to build up the 1,800-foot road to town specifications for gravel roads.

“I got an appeal to not pave it,” he said. “It had nothing to do with whether it was private or public. I originally went for a private dirt road and they forced me to make it up to a certain amount of standards, and now it is my right to see if it can become a town road.”

Ripley has the right to gather 211 signatures to put his road request on the upcoming town warrant.

He said he was seeking legal counsel to figure out his next step.

“There are checks and balances for citizens to get things in front of voters,” he said.

One lot in the 8-lot subdivision has been sold, Ripley said.

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