WESTFIELD—If you live on certain private ways in the city, your street may be one step closer to becoming a public way.
The City Council’s Legislative and Ordinance (L & O) Committee voted earlier this week to approve a resolution to send a home rule petition to the state legislature that would authorize the city to categorize private ways into public streets. The measure will now be sent to City Council on Nov. 16, where it is expected to be voted on by the entire council and if successful, is then expected to go to the state legislature.
The project was originally put forth by outgoing Ward Four Councilor Mary O’Connell, who was said to have been working on this for over a decade.
“I’ve been working on this for almost 12 years,” she said.
“The process to accept private ways to public ways is cumbersome,” O’Connell said, adding that steps include public hearings and multiple departments.
“The process now is broken, we want to try a new process,” O’Connell said.
“What this allows us to do is look at and clump together a group of streets that can become public ways,” Ward Two Councilor and L & O Chairperson Ralph Figy said. “We still have to deal with them individually after, but this speeds up the process.”
Figy said that if the home rule petition is OKed by the state, there is still a state process that the city must go through for each street, including steps by the city’s engineer, assessor and Department of Public Works.
“Have to do it one way or another, street by street by street,” Figy said.
Figy said that one positive for this could be that there may be an increase in Chapter 90 funding, due to the increased amount of public roads the city would have. However, he is unsure how much it could actually rise.
One downside that Figy mentioned though, was that the city would then be responsible for these streets. Figy said though, that the city has helped to maintain these roadways. Figy also said that the city’s law department reportedly does not feel that this process would be appropriate to accomplish their goal.
“They think we should stick with the way it’s laid out, one street at a time,” he said.
Regarding the streets themselves, there are a total of 61 streets that were listed for this particular resolution. The street’s locations, by ward, are as follows:
-Ward one, 12 streets
-Ward two, one street
-Ward three, zero streets
-Ward four, seven streets
-Ward five, 21 streets
-Ward six, 20 streets
According to Figy, the streets chosen have property lines that do not extend to the middle of the roads, so the roadway is essentially unowned.
“Theoretically, these are the newer subdivisions that have had property set aside to have a street. These are supposed to have streets that nobody owns,” Figy said. “Streets that are all ready to go.”
According to L & O member and Ward Two Councilor Bill Onyski, most of the streets have plans that have occurred within the past roughly 20 years.
“Majority of the streets have plans dating back to around the year 2000,” he said. “There’s a few in there that are slightly older, but majority are 2000 and closer.”
Onyski, like Figy, said that the newer streets should have boundaries that leave space for roads.
Figy noted that for certain other private ways, the city would have to go through the process of acquiring the land that the roadway is on, due to how parcel boundaries were created for those private ways and how the boundaries may extend to the middle of the road.