New Takings Will Be Filed For Seven Roads Following Court Settlement

By: Tim Wood

Topics: Roads, highways and transportation

Stage Harbor Road and Cedar Street, two of the seven Stage Neck streets for which a new order of taking will be filed after a 1997 order was invalidated. GOOGLE MAPS PHOTO

CHATHAM – The town will file a new order of taking for seven Stage Neck roads after reaching agreement with several property owners who sued to invalidate a previous taking.

Selectmen next week are expected to approve an article for the May 13 annual town meeting authorizing an order of taking for Battlefield Road, Cedar Street, Champlain Road, Port Fortune Lane, Sears Road, Stage Harbor Road and Stage Neck Road. The action is the result of an agreement reached last month that settled a suit brought by nine property owners in 2016.

After Stage Harbor Road residents objected to a plan to build sidewalks along the roadway, it was discovered that the town failed to notify abutters when it formally took the right-of-way for Stage Harbor Road and the other streets in the Stage Neck area in 1997. No evidence could be found that any of the 228 property owners were notified of that taking. Notification of abutters is required by state law when a town takes land for a public roadway.

The Jan. 9 agreement declares the 1997 taking to be invalid. It will be rescinded and replaced by a new taking, which Chairman of Selectmen Dean Nicastro said he anticipates the board endorsing for submission to town meeting at its March 14 session. According to the agreement, the plaintiffs agreed to drop all damage claims from the 1997 taking and the new taking.

The new taking will cover the existing paved roadways as well as easements beyond the paved surface, with the new layout modifies in only minor ways from the 1997 taking, mostly to provide more consistency in easement boundaries, according to Town Counsel Patrick Costello. All abutters will be notified of the taking as required by state statute, he said.

“Given the fact that the new taking will, in effect, maintain the status quo of the roads, as presently improved, I do not anticipate that any damages will be payable to property owners, however the town will be commissioning an appraisal in that regard” once the layouts are finalized, he said in an email.

Selectmen dropped the sidewalk plan even before the suit was filed. The proposed order of taking lists a number of activities that can be done within the roadway and the maintenance area on either side of the paved surface, such as utilities, drainage and signage, as well as maintaining existing sidewalks and curbs to be delineated on the new taking plan. It doesn't preclude new sidewalks, if a future board of selectmen opted to pursue them, said Nicastro.