Private road ordinance changed approved

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WINDHAM — The Town Council has approved ordinance changes that aim to address maintenance and safety concerns on private roads in town – particularly when new development is added off existing roads.

The vote at last week’s meeting was not unanimous, with two of the six councilors present saying that they needed more information and discussion on the issue. The ordinance changes passed 4-2.

Council Chairman Dennis Welch, Vice Chairman David Nadeau, Timothy Nangle, and Jarrod Maxfield voted for the ordinance changes, which were grouped together in one agenda item.

The ordinance changes stipulate that when development extends an existing private road or creates a new private road that is accessed off an existing private road, all of the private roads between that development and the nearest public street must conform to a town private road standard. The ordinances also set standards and definitions for driveways, adjust backlot standards and require that new roads with direct access to a public street have to meet a local street standard and be offered for public acceptance by the town.

“Windham makes a lot of big decisions based on small interests, and I’m sick of it. We have an opportunity – we are one of the best towns in Maine, but we have been neglected on so many levels. These people on these roads have been neglected on so many levels, ” Maxfield said.

“The people we need to make it fair for are the people who have already been abused,” Maxfield said, referring to some residents who say that development on their private roads have caused problems. “And there’s a lot of them. And there’s a lot more of those people then on the other side. And I was elected to help those people.”

“We have ordinances that we pass and then fix all the time,” Maxfield said, acknowledging that the changes may need to be tweaked in the future but expressing his belief that the council needed to act.

Councilors Donna Chapman and Robert Muir voted against the ordinance changes. Councilor Brett Jones was absent for the vote.

“I pretty much would agree with everybody out here that this needs more work, and we haven’t thought of everything,” Chapman said at the meeting last Tuesday night, acknowledging the concerns expressed by several members of the public.

“I’m not ready to vote on this tonight,” Muir said.

“My concern is that it’s going to get passed as is and then we’re not going to pick it up at all,” Chapman said.

“I’m certainly not going to vote for something and then say, ‘well, we’ll sit here and change it afterwards.’ I saw that happen down in Washington,” Muir added.

The town Planning Board split on the private roads issue in August, deadlocking 2-2 on a vote whether to provide tentative support for the ordinance changes. Town Planner Amanda Lessard clarified Wednesday that while the council had to seek the Planning Board’s feedback on the issue, that feedback did not need to be positive for the council to move forward with the vote.

“We have a divided council on this and we have a divided Planning Board on this. And that tells me that we’re not ready to vote. But we can do whatever we want tonight,” Chapman said before the vote.

Matt Junker can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 123 or mjunker@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @MattJunker.

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