When a Natick resident introduced a citizen petition at Spring Annual Town Meeting to ask the town to pay $22.7K for a survey of a couple of “crumbling” and unsafe unaccepted streets, she got plenty of sympathy but no money to fix Hillcrest or Pinewood Avenue. However, the petition did again raise the issue of the town needing a less piecemeal plan to address the matter of Natick’s 20-odd miles of unaccepted roadways, and now the town has taken what could be a big step to help property owners.
Town Engineer Bill McDowell shared with the Select Board on Aug. 9 (about 2 hours, 8 minutes into the Pegasus recording) an update on the Department of Public Works’ plans regarding unaccepted roadways. This was the sequel to a March 22 presentation before the Select Board during which the DPW laid out its criteria for rating unaccepted streets for consideration by the Board for acceptance.
The overall issue has been a frustration for town officials and property owners for years (we found a Metrowest Daily News article from 2012 in which a Natick Select Board member commented on the enormity of the problem, then quantified in the tens of millions of dollars worth of work).
Per the state’s Department of Transporation, “Unaccepted roads consist of roads open to public travel but not formally accepted by a city or town, as well as some private ways.” In other words, Natick’s unaccepted roads aren’t maintained like the rest, as the town is not allowed by law to spend public funds on them.
During his Aug. 9 presentation, McDowell described a proposed process that allows any property owner to petition the Select Board to initiate the street acceptance process. As part of that, the property owner would be given a petition template from the DPW Engineering Division to go back to their neighborhood with for signatures from at least 75% of property owners on the street. Once signatures are secured and verified, the DPW could initiate its street acceptance evaluation report—a quantitative analysis—to be presented to the Select Board within 3 weeks.
The Board would then have 3 options, McDowell said. It could lay out the way and start the process for street acceptance, return the petition to the petitioner with recommendations, or decline to lay out the way. If a property owner disagreed with the DPW’s assessment or Board’s decision, there would be an opportunity to argue make case by providing evidence.
“This process gives us a way to initiate this so that residents don’t feel a need to come petition Town Meeting to get individual streets accepted,” McDowell said, adding that it should help the town get more streets in the best shape possible.
The Board approved the policy and process.
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