Devon Manor road status change recommended

WESTFIELD – The Planning Board Feb. 18 was asked for a recommendation on street acceptance for a public way for Devon Terrace, Gloria Drive, Hillary Lane, Nancy Circle, Frank Circle, Rachel Terrace, and Hillcrest Circle.

Before the discussion began, Chair William Carellas disclosed that he had business dealings with the Devon Manor Homeowners Association with no financial interest, and he did not believe it was a conflict of interest.

Ward 6 City Councilor William Onyski, who said he lives on Hillcrest Circle, asked that the Planning Board approve the six roads to turn into public ways from private roads.

Onyski said Ward 6 has 73 of the 214 private roads in Westfield. He said one reason they have an inordinate amount is that a lot of housing complexes were built in the late 80’s and early 90’s, and the property for the roads was not transferred by developers to the city to be accepted as public ways.

Onyski said not a lot has been done since as far as street acceptance by the city. He said his proposal received approval from the Public Works Commission and city engineer.

“This is a written process that we’re testing,” Onyski said. He said once this all gets done, it will go to City Council for approval, hopefully next month.

Board members asked him what the benefit is to homeowners of changing the status of the roads. Onyski said he was approached by a real estate developer in the area, due to difficulties selling lots with the current status. He said the city still plows, runs buses and picks up garbage in the neighborhood.

“Everyone know here they’re not looking to get the streets fixed, which are in relatively good shape. It’s one of the things people think in turning private roads into public ways, but it doesn’t get your road fixed, it gets it in line,” Onyski said. He said these roads have all of the proper metes and bounds, which is an impediment to some private roads. “In this case, it’s all done,” he added.

Onyski said the proposal has also been vetted by the Law Department, although it may still be “tweaked.”

Onyski said the downside to accepting the roads is the city could be on the hook if a repair is needed, but additional miles of roads adds to the Chapter 90 funds, although in this case not by much, he said.

City Planner Jay Vinskey said the Planning Board had a list on their shared drive of all of the private roads that have been signed off by the board as being built to standards but had just never made it to street acceptance.

“This is not a subdivision issue, just a street acceptance issue,” Vinskey said.

Onyski said he and the residents have been working on the issue for a year. He said land transfers from the center of the road to the property lines have been signed and notarized by every property owner to the city. “Every person has to give their little piece of the street to the city,” he said, adding that homeowners will remain responsible for islands and open space in the development.

Hillary Lane resident Jim Plasse, treasurer of the Homeowners Association, described the process of obtaining all of the transfers. He said volunteers went door to door and put out tables all day long during the summer to get the signatures.

Plasse said he personally went to one owner on a farm eight times until he reached him in the fields.

“This process started 20 years ago,” he said, adding when he bought his home he was not told it was a private road. Plasse also said the city gets close to $1 million in property tax for the 100 homes, and the streets were designed as public ways.

“When you drive up there, you’d never know they were private roads,” Carellas said.

A motion was made and passed to send a favorable recommendation to the City Council.


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