Dawn Francis, Town Manager
Private Roads Winter Maintenance
The Selectboard held a meeting last Monday to obtain public comment on the Town's practice of providing winter maintenance on some, but not all of the community's private road system. The Selectboard is considering the issue in advance of preparing a formal policy based upon concerns raised from residents about the fairness and equity of plowing some private roads and not others, advice of legal counsel and the recommendations of the Governance Committee who requested the Town establish a formal policy per the Town’s Charter. The legal issues include whether the Town has the authority to provide this service on private property; whether it violates the Vermont Constitution because private users receive a tax dollar benefit greater than what other taxpayers receive, the liability and risk of the Town operating equipment on private property as well as unfair competition with the private sector.
The public comments at the meeting and from emails/phone calls to date, fall under the following general themes:
- The Town has a legal and/or moral obligation to continue plowing private roads.
- It is unfair for the Town to be plowing some private roads and not others.
- The plowing of private roads is necessary for public health and safety (emergency access).
- The Town’s minimum roadway standards should be reduced to allow public acceptance of private roads.
- Alternate methods of plowing private roads such as public private partnerships and Town managed contracts should be explored.
- Property owners should receive tax rebates if plowing of private roads is discontinued.
- Taxpayers should not be paying for service on private property.
- General confusion over why the Town permits additional development on private roads.
- Buyers purchased property on private roads with the assumption that plowing would continue.
- Lack of availability of private snow removal contractors especially if a decision is made before this winter season.
- Unclear definition of a private road and its effect on future costs to expand private road plowing.
- The Selectboard should take their time and consider public input in deciding this issue, be transparent about their deliberations and consider the difficulty in finding contractors.
Comments received before and after the meeting (up to Friday afternoon on September 15) have been uploaded to the Town website. You will find these at http://colchestervt.gov/1845/Private-Roads-Discussion . We continue to compile emails that arrived after Friday’s update. If you provided input after Friday afternoon your comments will be included with the Selectboard packet for the Selectboard’s special meeting/work session on Monday, September 18. There are other topics are on that agenda and we expect to take up the private roads discussion at 5:00 p.m. The Board has also scheduled time at the regular meetings on September 26 and October 10 to consider the issue further and respond to questions and comments raised. Website updates will be made within 5 days of these meetings.
For more about the Town Manager’s Office, visit http://colchestervt.gov/manager or call (802) 264-5509.