Homeowners dispute ownership of road

Jan 5, 2022

MARION –  Residents of Sippican Woods development told the select board Tuesday that the town should be responsible for maintaining Field Stone Road, which is now under the oversight of a newly formed homeowners association.

As of Jan.  1 Steen Realty and Development Corporation transferred oversight of the development to the association, which must now pay for road plowing and maintenance of Field Stone Road.

Town Administrator Jay McGrail and the Department of Public Works were hesitant to take over the road, citing conditions that would make plowing challenging. Public works director Nathaniel Munafo said the streetlights are placed far too close to the road, and two have had to be removed as a result. 

Steen also got a waiver for a hammerhead turnaround at the end of the lane, which Munafo said has a dangerous drop on three sides. Fieldstone Lane is also much longer than the town permits for a dead end. 

McGrail said that the town and Steen Realty were in court for 10 years over some of  these issues, but ultimately because the development fell under Chapter 40B of the state law, the town had to accept many waivers that it otherwise would have rejected. 

Chapter 40B is a state statute that allows flexibility in town regulations for affordable housing developments. 

Speaking for the other residents of Fieldstone Lane, Shawn Badgley said that Steen Realty had waived the Homeowners Association fees for the past three years, leaving the group with few funds to look into the legal aspects of the issue or to take over winter maintenance of the road. 

Badgley also said that many of the homeowners had bought the homes with the understanding that the town would one day take over control of the road, only to learn that the town currently has no plans to do so. 

Officials emphasized that the decision of whether to make the road public will ultimately be up to Town Meeting, and were supportive of the new homeowner’s association taking the issue up there. 

Representatives from Steen Realty did not attend the meeting, but McGrail said that he had spoken with Steen Realty that afternoon, and that the company had offered to pay for the plowing for the winter, until the homeowners association can more fully establish itself. 

Multiple residents of Fieldstone Lane said that Steen had refused to communicate with them, and that the offer to continue plowing was essentially useless, since they already have a contract for a plow that they cannot break. 

“It’s not sitting well with me, the timing of this conversation,” between McGrail and Steen, new homeowners association board member Wendy Slabodnick said. She said she thought that Steen was trying to paint himself in a more positive light with the offer. 

McGrail said that he would ask whether Steen could pay the costs for the plow that the new homeowners association had employed instead.