Paris selectmen to landowner: Remove signs from right of way

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PARIS — The Board of Selectmen voted 3-1 Monday night to ask a landowner to remove signs banning ATVs from his land. They also voted to ask the town’s attorney what rights it has over the land.

The board will also send an official letter to the X-Tra Mile ATV Club, whose trail system uses the right of way to connect to the West Paris trail system.

It was the latest move in an issue that has continued for more than a month ever since David Everett, owner of ECI Materials, posted signs blocking ATVs from using the right of way. Last year, Everett and the town split the cost of a private crossing over the railroad tracks on Gravel Pit Road.

The crossing agreement with St. Lawrence and Atlantic Railroad Co. says the crossing may be used only for gravel pit access. To keep ATV riders from illegally using the crossing, Everett posted signs keeping them off the right of way.

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On Jan. 9, the board asked Everett to take down the signs and he complied. However, after a vote to bar ATVs from the right of way at the Jan. 23 meeting failed, Everett posted a sign barring ATVs, motorcycles, bicycles and hunting on the road through his property.

At Monday’s meeting, Selectman Jean Smart suggested getting more information on the town’s rights before moving further on the issue. Chairman Robert Kirchherr disagreed.

“The town’s residents have been denied access to that road if they use certain vehicles,” Kirchherr said. He said that violated the deed granting the right of way.

Selectman Ted Kurtz brought a proposal to give Everett an ultimatum for taking down the signs, and said the town Highway Department could take down the signs if Everett refused.

Town Manager Phil Tarr suggested a less forceful approach.

“Already, an action has been taken which drew a line in the sand,” he said, and suggested the board take its next step carefully. Selectmen agreed to a more friendly letter, asking Everett to remove the signs within a week. The vote was 3-1, with Smart dissenting and Selectman Kenneth West abstaining.

The board also voted to ask the town’s attorney to look into the matter, to check whether Everett could block people from using the right of way through his land, whether the town could extend use of the right of way to nonresidents and what authority the town has to grant or deny permission to use the right of way.

Selectmen voted 3-2 to request more information from attorneys at the Bernstein Shur law firm. Kirchherr and Kurtz voted against the motion.

Smart said the board’s assertion that it could allow the ATV club the right to use the road could jeopardize the town’s crossing rights with the railroad company. The certified letter said the town couldn’t give any kind of approval for the club to cross the tracks. “Such activity, done without the permission of SLA, is trespassing,” Smart read from the letter.

“SLA finds it incomprehensible that the Board of Selectmen would irresponsibly bless motorized crossing over the SLA tracks,” the letter read.

Kurtz said that was irrelevant, as selectmen only gave permission to use the right of way, not the railroad crossing itself. Kurtz has maintained that Everett has no right to regulate use of the right of way, which connects High Street to the town’s gravel pit.

The board also voted 3-1 to send a letter to the ATV club granting it permission to use the right of way. Smart voted against the motion and West abstained.

treaves@sunjournal.com

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