2016-11-18 / Front Page

Kennebunk to pass on paper streets

Town will maintain rights to seven roads, let go of 16
By Wm. Duke Harrington Staff Writer

KENNEBUNK — Kennebunk is set to abandon 16 roads in town.

That sounds more dramatic than it actually is. All 16 are roads laid out on plans filed with the registry of deeds, some more than a century ago, which were never actually built.

Now, with a 20-year deadline closing in, the town must decide what to do with those unbuilt roads, some of which it owns outright, others over which it controls a public easement, or right-of-way.

In all, there are 23 so-called paper streets in Kennebunk. Working with staff, Town Manager Barry Tibbetts said at the Nov. 8 selectmen’s meeting the decision has been made to retain right to seven of the unbuilt roads for drainage easements, and to unload the other 16.

“There’s no real need for us to hang on to them, so we’ve decided to just let them go,” he said.

To accomplish that, the town basically does nothing. The roads will automatically revert to abutting landowners, with each able to lay claim to the frontage on his or her side as far as the centerline.

“If we don’t act, we have still released our interest in them and it would be up to the abutters to act on that,” Tibbetts said.

To date, Tibbett’s office has fielded no calls from abutters anxious to gain a little extra taxable property.

“There’s been nothing,” he said.

Kennebunk last weighed in on the issue of paper streets in 1997, when the state legislature passed a law erasing from the record, or “vacating,” any roads recorded in the registry of deeds before Sept. 1987 but not actually built by Sept. 1997.

The law allowed towns to retain “incipient dedication,” or rights, to any paper streets it specifically exempted from abandonment.

At that time, the town punted on a decision and filed to retain its interests in all 23 streets, said Tibbetts, who is retiring at the end of this year, staying on just long enough to catch the tail end of that long ago decision, made before he was town manager, but was a member of the committee that made the non-ruling.

“I thought by pushing them off and not addressing them at that time, I would not have to address them at all,” he joked at the Nov. 8 meeting. “That procrastination has come back to bite me.”

The state law covering paper streets has a 20-year sunset clause.

That means Kennebunk must re-assert its interests in any unbuilt remaining roads by Sept. 2017.

A list of the seven streets to be kept makes a point of noting that almost all need research in order to stake out their exact boundaries.

They are listed as:

 The Kennebunk Seashore Company — “in the area of the Webhanet Golf Course;”

 The Storer Homestead Subdivision — “by Lord and Parsons streets, tax Map 51, lots 37, 38, 40, 41, and maybe 43;”

 Emery Acres — “off Meadow Drive at Map 47, lots 53 and 54, and Map 48, lot 76;”

 Ocean View Acres — “at Old Col. Crowley Drive, Map 71, lots 40, 41, and 42;”

 Land owned by Robert and Hazel Coyne — “at the end of Coyne McKay Lane;”

 The revised plan for Emery Acres — “at a cul-de-sac on Intervale Road;”

 and the River-Dale Subdivision — “at Constitution and Florence Circle.”

The roads to be relinquished are equally hard to place, with some saying as much on the list provided to selectmen by Tibbetts. For example, one listed as “lots belonging to Fred Bunnell,” is described in those exact words — “hard to place, off Cat Mousam [Road].”

However, two of the roads provide ocean access and selectmen say they have received one email request to have the town retain those.

One is near Strawberry Island, off Great Hill Road. It is reportedly the road that once went out to the island where a farmhouse once stood until it burned down in the mid-1960s.

It is hard to believe a house once stood there, and there’s no longer any road beyond the sand dune visible at low tide, as both the farm lot and road have long since been eaten away by raging tides.

The other ocean access road is at Parsons Beach Road. Where the road now takes a hard right onto a private way, it once went out across the beach directly into the sea. However, there is little hope of retaining that, Tibbetts said.

“There are no town rights to Parsons Beach, that is truly a private beach,” he advised.

The full list of paper streets to be kept and abandoned is available at town hall and on the town website. Selectmen are slated to make a final decision on disposition at their Nov. 22 meeting.

Staff Writer Duke Harrington can be reached at news@kennebunkpost.com.

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