Barrington residents ask town to abandon paper road
A small strip of land not much wider than 60 or 70 feet in some spots, has a group of residents in the Sowams area very concerned.
The narrow piece of property runs east from Sowams Road toward the Palmer River and is located between Charles Street and Oak Grove Avenue. And within that land, which is owned by Femiun Mezini, exists Stella Road, a paper street that the town has not yet developed.
Some residents approached the town council at its September meeting and requested that the town abandon Stella Road, forfeiting the strip of property to Mr. Mezini, who in turn, would like to divide the paper road and sell it to abutting property owners for $1 per square foot. (The council will discuss the issue at its meeting on Monday, Oct. 7.)
Mr. Mezini has plans to build a home on the parcel that surround Stella Road. A builder representing Mr. Mezini told the council that for the house to be situated differently on the lot — reducing its direct impact on some abutters — the town needs to abandon the paper road, thus eliminating a set-back issue.
On Sept. 3, residents asked the council to understand their plight. They said they knew the home was going to be built one way or the other, but that if the town did not abandon the land, then “the town council screws” them, said Charles Street resident Chris Atkinson.
Donna Merlino, a fellow Charles Street resident, stood near Mr. Atkinson at the meeting and urged the council to do something, anything ... at the very least schedule a public hearing for the potential abandonment.
The council agreed to do just that, but not before first-year council member Ann Strong tried to halt the process in its tracks.
Ms. Strong made a motion to not hold a hearing, but after a lengthy discussion, she found herself on the short end of a 3-2 vote.
Still, even officials who agreed to the Oct. 7 hearing appeared to have a problem with giving away the town property. Council president June Speakman said it would make better sense for the town to sell the paper road to the abutters for a reasonable price.
The town estimated the land — it’s approximately 32,000 square feet — would be worth $48,000.
“I think town property has value and should not be given away,” Ms. Speakman said.
Folks on Charles Street and Oak Grove Avenue have long kept a curious eye on the swath of land that surrounds Stella Road. They have wondered if it would ever be developed. They’ve even offered to purchase the property.
But despite some hints of activity, nothing ever seemed to change on the lot until last month when a crew arrived and began felling tall oak trees on the property.
Mr. Mezini applied for a building permit recently to construct a 2,464 square foot home on the lot at 307 Sowams Road. The permit shows that the single family home will have four bedrooms and two-and-a-half baths. It will reportedly cost $241,000 to construct and will include a two-car garage.
The location of the home presents the greatest issue to some neighbors. Many of the people living on the southern side of Charles Street are expecting Mr. Mezini’s home to sit quite close to their properties.
In the Merlino’s backyard, a wooden stake marks the spot where the corner of Mr. Mezini’s garage will stand. The stake is just a stone’s throw from the Merlino’s deck and pool. Mrs. Merlino explained that Mr. Mezini’s home could actually end up even closer to her property if town officials decide not to abandon Stella Road.
Other stakes along the edge of the property show how abutters’ sheds and children’s swing-sets appear to infringe on Mr. Mezini’s land.
During the Sept. 3 council meeting, some abutters said they were in favor of the town abandoning the road and allowing Mr. Mezini to sell it to them, while officials struggled with that concept.
“I don’t think we should be in the habit of giving it away,” said Barrington Town Manager Peter DeAngelis.
“I think some group of people needs to come up with $48,000,” said councilor Bill DeWitt.
Oak Grove Avenue Tom Billups appeared to gesture to the council that abutters would not be willing to pony up tens of thousands of dollars to purchase the property as a group.
Mr. Billups’ attorney, Peter Skwirz, also argued before the council that the town does not have legal grounds to sell a piece of property which it has never formally accepted. The town’s attorney, Michael Ursillo, did not agree with Mr. Skwirz’s interpretation.
Meanwhile, some people at the meeting quietly questioned whether the town was lacking a long-range view on the property — noting that the town coffers would stand to receive more tax money from abutters if they begin paying on a paper road-turned-backyards.
A public hearing on the possible abandonment of the paper road is set for Oct. 7 at 7 p.m. inside the council chambers.