Residents of private road in Amherst surprised when plows don’t show

  • Klark Johnson, a UMass student, works on a snowman at his home in Amherst. “I’m just procrastinating from all my schoolwork,” he said Monday, Dec. 2, 2019. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

Staff Writer
Published: 12/2/2019 10:52:03 PM

AMHERST — As the first winter storm of the season hit the region, residents who live on a private road near the Pelham town line awoke Monday morning to find their street covered in snow.

“I’m looking out at about 8 inches of unplowed snow,” said Christopher Stoney, of 68 Allen Mill Road. “There’s no evidence of any plowing.”

“If there’s an emergency, I don’t know how the response will be handled,” added Jacob Liverman, of 45 Allen Mill Road.

For both residents of the gravel way off Pelham Road, the decision by the town to not plow the road didn’t come as a surprise, as they had been informed of the likelihood in previous discussions with town officials, but they are still looking for answers after getting a Nov. 23 letter from Town Manager Paul Bockelman. That email informed them the Department of Public Works would no longer be doing winter road maintenance on the gravel road, effective immediately.

In that correspondence, Bockelman wrote, “Allen Mill Road is not a public road and is posted as a private road. It should not be maintained or plowed by Town vehicles and won’t be going forward.”

Liverman said DPW Superintendent Guilford Mooring informed him last year that the town was considering not plowing private roads. Still, he has requested that the town wait another year to make a decision to give residents time to adjust to the possible change.

Liverman said the street serves as one of the entrances to the Amethyst Brook Conservation Area, which has several hiking trails, for residents from surrounding neighborhoods.

“Technically, it’s a private road, but my argument is it’s a public way by prescription,” Liverman said.

The town also did a resurfacing project on Allen Mill Road in fall 2018.

Stoney said the upsetting aspect is that the road has not gotten any worse since that time. “It’s historically maintained by the town, nothing has changed suddenly,” Stoney said.

In an email Monday, Mooring said the policy is not to plow private roads, though he acknowledges that there are what he calls “legacy private roads” that the town does plow, by accident or for a reason that isn’t recorded.

“We have begun discussions with some of them to bring the road up to standards for us to accept as a town way or plow it themselves,” Mooring said.

Stoney said that when he purchased his property in 2006, Allen Mill Road was one of several roads described as “town maintained roads over private land,” and there was no concern that this would change.

However, plowing was more limited last year.

“The only issue was that the last 40 feet to my house wasn’t done the previous winter,” he said.

Bockelman said the street is a common driveway and “hardly a road, and has not been maintained to any type of town standard by the private property owner or abutters.”

Liverman observes that in the Amherst Hills subdivision, including Concord Way, Linden Ridge Road and Hawthorn Road, the town has similar concerns about the streets not being brought up to town specifications.

Yet those streets were apparently plowed during the initial storm, leading Liverman to question whether neighborhoods with more expensive homes get priority.

Mooring explained that roads being developed as public ways through the subdivision process are often plowed, even if not yet accepted.

Stoney and Liverman are the only homeowners, and trash pickup and mail delivery uses the street, along with the driveway for a college rental with an address on Pelham Road.

For now, Liverman said if the town is not going to plow the street, he would like time to find someone who can.

“Getting a landscaper at this time of year will be difficult,” Liverman said.

Scott Merzbach can be reached at smerzbach@gazettenet.com.


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