Private roads matter


“Hmmm, sounds like this could be a potential nightmare.”

From a post on an English website about private roads in the UK.

On Tuesday the 30th of May the Windham town councilors held a workshop that contained discussions about the Windham Historical Society and private roads located in Windham.

For me the discussion with the historical society was somewhat disjointed so I will avoid that subject,  but I must add the fact that I find history a fascinating subject and approve of projects that protect the history of any town, state and even our country. Too much has been lost already,  like Union Station in the city of Portland which could have been used like a magnet to attract tourists not only to Portland but Maine as well.

The other discussion was about how to improve private roads in Windham to get them up to standards for residents and public safety personnel.

Let’s first look at what the state  has to say about private roads and the municipality that those private roads are located in because that’s a rock-solid place to start any discussion on private roads. I will quote exactly what is on the state of Maine website about private roads: “A privately owned road, commonly called a “private road,” is a road over which neither the municipality nor the general public has the right to pass by vehicle or foot. Anyone using or repairing a privately-owned road without the owner’s permission is subject to an action by the owner for trespass. In general, a municipality has no legal right to spend public funds to repair, maintain or plow privately owned roads (Opinion of the Justices, 560 A.2de 552 (Me. 1989))”.

It goes on to state that in an emergency case of a house fire,  the municipality may send a snowplow down a private road so that a fire truck can get in. That comes with the stipulation that the road is sufficiently maintained to allow the plow vehicle to get through. Now I know that Windham has used municipal vehicles to plow roads that allow a public easement, but I have to wonder why. Here’s why I say that. “In 1989, the Maine Supreme ruled that public funds or equipment may not be used to maintain or plow privately owned roads. This is true even if the public is not prevented by signs or gates from using the road. The court’s reasoning was the ‘implied consent of access’ is transitory at best, and one or more the road’s owners could at any time restrict access.” Has the Town of Windham been doing something illegal? If so, I want my tax dollars back.

It goes on, “For example, the municipality might make substantial repairs to a private road open to the public, only to find that the very next day the road was closed to public access. Therefore, the Court held that the proposed use of public funds to maintain a private road would represent an unconstitutional expenditure of public funds for a private purpose, thereby violating the ‘public purpose’ doctrine of the Maine Constitution.”

Windham has some town councilors that need to learn what they are talking about instead of attempting a public riot. When one town councilor speaks another councilor should not be rolling his eyes as in disbelief. Town councilors should speak about subjects they are truly informed about rather than pulling fiction from their butts. I understand that some citizens now believe that the town should improve their private roads,  although that is illegal.

Some of the proposed solutions to the conditions of Windham’s private roads make me believe some think all development off of a private road or way should cease until the private road is built up to required standards. Sadly this has been an ongoing problem in Windham for many years so another solution was to not allow any new private roads or ways or further development on existing ones. I think town hall would miss the income from taxes.

Lane Hiltunen of Windham wonders why some town councilors smile and wave at town staff during council meetings and workshops. Weren’t they elected to represent the voters?