Selectmen To Create New Procedure To Tackle Wilmington’s 30 Miles Of Unaccepted Ways

WILMINGTON, MA — Below is a message from Town Manager Jeff Hull, published in the latest Town Topics newsletter:

Do you live on a Town road? Most residents would likely say, “Sure, I use it every day to get to and from my house.” Others might say “Ya, it’s a Town road all right and it is really in tough shape. I wish the Town would fix it.”

The Town is not responsible for all roads in Wilmington. Main Street (Route 38) is owned and the responsibility of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The Town is responsible for approximately 100 miles of streets. Wilmington, like most other communities, has unaccepted or private ways. Unaccepted “ways” may look like any other street but the physical property that the “way” is located on is not owned by the Town of Wilmington. The abutting property owners to that “way” cannot block travel even though they have ownership rights to the centerline of the “way.” Thirty miles of streets in Wilmington are unaccepted ways.

Under Massachusetts General Law, municipalities cannot spend public funds on the construction or reconstruction of private ways. Essentially doing so would be the equivalent of the Town paving the driveway or paving a basketball court on a resident’s property.

The Public Works Department will patch potholes and, on roads that are gravel packed, may grade the road if it has significant potholes and unevenness. Emergency services, trash and recycling collection and snowplowing are all provided to residents on unaccepted ways.

Over the next several months, a procedure will be developed and presented to the Board of Selectmen to address the means by which unaccepted ways can be presented to Annual Town Meeting for approval as public ways. Ultimately, a majority vote at Town Meeting is required for the Town to assume ownership and responsibility for any unaccepted ways.

Issues to be included in the procedure are: criteria for determining the order for accepting “ways,” who will be responsible for upfront survey, legal and engineering costs, engineering design standards that will be deemed acceptable, a funding source for costs associated with upgrades or full depth reconstruction of the “ways” so that they are safe and meet Town standards.

The cost for the construction or reconstruction of unacceptable ways and installation of proper drainage systems so that they can be recommended for approval as public ways is expected to be in the millions of dollars and will take many years to complete. In the words of Lao Tzu: “The journey of a thousand miles (or in Wilmington’s case 30 miles) begins with one step.”

(NOTE: The above information is from the latest Town Topics Newsletter.)

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