Private Roads Discussion

Colchester Selectboard Considers Private Road Winter Maintenance Policy


The Colchester Selectboard will be discussing the snow/ice removal operations of 14 miles of the Town's 41 miles of private roads at a meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12, 2017 in the Outer Bay Conference room on the third floor of the Town Offices at 781 Blakely Road. The Selectboard will consider whether to:

  1. Continue with the status quo (provide winter maintenance to 14 miles of the 41 miles of private roads);
  2. Discontinue winter operations on all private roads; or
  3. Provide winter maintenance to all private roadways if they meet established Town standards and are converted to public roadways.
The public is invited to attend this meeting and offer input. If you are not able to attend the Selectboard meeting, you may submit any written or emailed comments to Town Manager Dawn Francis (email: dfrancis@colchestervt.gov) or call 264-5509 prior to the meeting.

At the Selectboard meeting on August 8, 2017 the Board decided to release a legal opinion on the issue and set a date for public input. Further, a letter will be sent to all property owners on private roads notifying them of the upcoming meeting and requesting their input. Selectboard Chair Nadine Scibek stated: “The Town's current practice of maintaining some, but not all of the Town's private roads in the winter months has been a long standing issue for over 47 years. Some residents have raised concerns about the fairness and equity of the current practice. The Governance Committee, who recently prepared recommendations for Town Charter amendments, also recommends that the Board consider the issue and adopt a formal policy. This Board is ready and willing to adopt a formal policy. Engaging the public in open dialogue is necessary and welcomed and will help guide and inform the Board's final policy decision this issue."

Background


Since 1970, the Town of Colchester has been involved in the practice of providing varying levels of winter road maintenance to a portion of the Town's 41 miles of privately owned roadways. The appropriateness of this practice has been discussed and voted on many times over the past 47 years.

An extensive study of plowing private roads was conducted by the Public Works Department in 1995. In 1997, in an attempt to minimize the risks to the Town for this practice, the voters of Colchester approved an amendment to the Town's Charter which enabled the Selectboard to establish a formal policy regarding the practice. To date, the Town has chosen to continue the practice and no formal policy has been established. After public input, the Selectboard will adopt a formal policy on this issue.

In 2013, the Town Selectboard formed a citizen group known as the Governance Committee. Charged with examining a variety of governance issues as well as a review of the Town's Charter, the Committee reviewed the Town's practice of providing winter maintenance to some of the Town's private roadways. In 2015, the Committee made a recommendation to the Selectboard that a formalized private road policy be developed and the Charter language pertaining to this issue removed. More recently, an increasing number of citizens have expressed concerns over the fairness and equity in this practice, as roughly 34% of the Town's private roads receive winter maintenance while the remaining 66% do not.

Below you will find further information regarding this issue.  

Reference Materials


1. White Paper on Winter Maintenance of Private Roads by D. Francis and B. Osborne (PDF)

2. History - Private Road Votes compiled by K. Richard, Town Clerk (PDF)

3. Map and List of Private Roads

4. Legal Opinions (PDF)

4. Governance Committee Memo excerpt 8/25/15 and Private Roads White Paper summary from 2015 Final Report (PDF)

Community Concerns


5. Sunset View correspondence

6. David Cohen correspondence

7. Motter correspondence

8. Summary of 1990 Community Comments