TIVERTON — First order of business for Tiverton’s rejuvenated Street Advisory Committee — bumpy little Lawrence Court.
Between January and April, the panel will have met four times to ponder the 1,380-foot road that least west off Main Road south of Bulgarmarsh.
And when it sorts that one out, many more wait in the wings.
On April 23, the committee will consider 11 unaccepted roads. Beyond that, it may have to figure out the status of as many of 157 — nearly 18 miles worth. At issue with these partly-private roads is whether they deserve town ‘acceptance,’ and with that taxpayer-paid services such as plowing, sanding, grading and maintenance, rubbish pickup, and lights.
Some of these streets are paved, others are gravel, some are a bit of each, and their widths vary. Not all have drainage.
The committee got a taste of what is to come when, on Feb. 19, it listened to Lawrence Court residents. Conflicts surfaced immediately.
Lawrence Court, which runs to the south end of Nanaquaket Pond fits a common pattern — partly town, partly private, partly asphalted, part gravel, of uneven width, and unevenly maintained.
The public half, which is asphalted — is plowed and sanded by the town. That portion is straight, and goes downhill from Main Road.
The remainder, which is gravel and narrower, loops south off at the west end of the public stretch.
That loop is also plowed and sanded — has been for years — but only because snowplows can’t turn around and must continue around the loop, says Department of Public Works (DPW) Director Steve Berlucchi. They might as well plow and sand the loop while they do so, he says.
Residents said they want all the services the road has been getting in the past to continue, even on the private and unaccepted portion.
“All the residents here would like to see it stay the way it is, the way it’s been handled, and keep the road plowed in the winter,” says Kevin Noyes, a resident of the private loop section.
He’s lived on the road 51 years, 19 of them with his wife Lori.
Twice a year, he says, his portion of the road is graded, and there’s trash pickup at curbside where they live as well, even though the road is private.
The width and condition of the road is problematic. Ms. Noyes says, “We have people worried about safety issues, and whether fire trucks can get in and out.”
Downhill from them, also on the private section, lives Duane Frank, 78.
“The way its set up now works out good,” he said. “The town comes through in the winter and plows. They come through in the spring and grade the road. Then we don’t see them again until the winter … They do notify us in case of a hurricane, because it does get flooded.” He lives about 50 yards from the shore of Nanaquaket Pond.
“There are 20 some people who live down here. We’d like services like the rest of the town. Why should we pay more taxes than they’re paying just because we live near the water. Just take care of us a little bit.”
Uphill, on the public and asphalted portion of the road, lives Larry Tittemore, 73, a retired highway engineer.
“How in hell did Tiverton get into this situation in the first place. In most communities, you can’t develop unless it’s on an accepted street. Tiverton got itself into this problem. No one did it to them.”
Mr. Tittemore talked about the solution. “The first thing they have to do is define the problem. There’s a lot of questions. For example, say there’s a fire. If the firefighters respond, you’re putting them at risk if the street is not clear or is in atrocious condition.”
After hearing from Lawrence Court residents, the committee sought guidance from the Town Council.
The committee needs clarification about what we’re supposed to be doing, committee secretary Audrey Gloddy told the council at its meeting Monday, March 10.
“You are the advisory committee. You can make any recommendation you want,” said President Roderick at the end of the council debate.
“But you’re leading these people down a path, if a recommendation cannot be approved by the council,” said Town Clerk Nancy Mello. Ms. Mello has attended multiple street committee meetings over the years and has heard the complaints and frustrations of many residents who live along the roads under discussion.
Ms. Gloddy told the council what the committee’s problem is.
“One week we’re being told we can’t do private property, the next week we’re being told we can do it,” she said. “Sometimes we follow the charter, sometimes we don’t have to.”
Ms. Gloddy lives at the intersection of Crandall Road and Cynthia Avenue, and her driveway feeds onto both roads.
She knows about the troubles Cynthia Avenue has had recently — it’s in such terrible condition that twice since Dec. 24, even though it’s not accepted by the town, the town has graded and graveled it, for public safety reasons, the town says.
Councilor Jay Lambert proposed broadening the authority of the street committee, to include recommendations regarding financing any recommendations it might make about unaccepted roads. His proposal was not supported by other councilors.
Many of the unaccepted streets fail to meet town standards and would have to be improved, at some public cost, to meet the standards.
Council President Ed Roderick stated advice he repeated several real times during the meeting.
“Your charge is to look at these roads and vote to make your recommendation,” he said.
“It’s the council’s job to make the decision,” said Councilor Brett Pelletier.
“You make the recommendation in the best interests of the town as a whole, and let the council make the decision,” said Town Solicitor Andrew Teitz.
Councilor Bill Gerlach said the committee needed to set up a methodology. “You’ve got to have the same playbook.”
“Some streets are gravel, some are paved but not to standards, maybe we need from the solicitor a set of definitions,” said Council member Joan Chabot.
The nine-member (four are ex-officio) committee will meet again in Town Hall at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, April 23 to talk about the Lawrence Court, and possibly make a final recommendation to the Town Council, says Chairman Mike Normandin.
The committee’s April-meeting plans also include discussing the status of streets in three subdivisions, he said: Daniel Church, Beech Tree Hill, and Winterberry Woods.
The 10 streets involved are: Church Pond Drive, Mallard Lane, Daniel T. Church Road, Rimrock Court, Silver Beech Road, Mountain Laurel Lane, Teaberry Drive, Gooseberry Lane, Winterberry Drive, and Elderberry Lane.