Updated: Mattapoisett Town Meeting approves all items, Old Slough Road decision brings debate

Nov 6, 2023

This article has been updated with more information from Town Meeting. 

MATTAPOISETT — Mattapoisett residents filled the seats of the Old Rochester Regional High School auditorium to vote at Fall Town Meeting on Monday, Nov. 6.

Every item on the Town Meeting agenda was passed — some with more discussion than others. 

An item that would authorize the town to take all necessary actions to acquire public way easements for the reconstruction of Old Slough Road brought debate to the Town Meeting floor. 

These “necessary actions” could include buying the land, having the land donated to the town, or the use of eminent domain. This item also asks residents to approve the allocation of $35,000 for any costs associated with acquiring the land. 

The item required a two-thirds majority vote to pass, and it received 124 votes in favor of the item and six votes against. 

The proposed project to reconstruct Old Slough Road would take the 213-year-old path, which is currently unpaved, narrow and muddy, and turn it into a road suitable for use by emergency vehicles. The road would go from Angelica Avenue to Bowman Road. Much of the land that would be used for the project is owned by the Mattapoisett Land Trust. 

The project’s goal is to provide a lifeline to the approximately 130 households on Angelica Avenue that could become stranded if coastal flooding blocked emergency access to the neighborhood. 

The entire project is estimated to cost approximately $600,000 and project designs have already been approved by the Select Board. 

According to Mattapoisett Town Administrator Mike Lorenco, this item will “rectify any potential movement of the roadway location that has occurred since 1810 by completing proper easements and takings.”

Mattapoisett resident and Old Slough Road abutter David Park raised issues with the road’s footprint. 

In a May 31 lawsuit filed against the Mattapoisett Land Trust and the Mattapoisett Select Board, Park claimed that the original 1810 layout of Old Slough Road is different from the footprint of the proposed redesign. 

He claimed in the lawsuit that the redesigned roadway passes approximately 50 feet from his home and “creates a potential path for noisy and dangerous traffic of dirt bikes, four-wheelers and other vehicles” and that the path “significantly depreciates the value” of his home.

According to Mattapoisett Select Board member Tyler Macallister, the road would be gated on both ends and only Mattapoisett first responders would be able to unlock the gates and access the road with motorized vehicles. 

Mattapoisett Land Trust Vice President Peter Davies said that the project design was altered to put more space between Park’s property and the road, and the town offered to provide a “dense evergreen screening” between the road and Park’s property.

During a presentation at Monday’s Town Meeting, Park said he proposed an alternative design for the Old Slough Road Project that would be “straighter, shorter and goes through less wooded areas.” 

According to Macallister, that design was evaluated by Field Engineering, the firm contracted for the Old Slough Road redesign project, who found that the plan would “require a lot more time and more money.”

And time is of the essence with this project. Two Coastal Resilience grants secured to fund the redesign project are due to expire if not used.  

In his lawsuit, Park also raised issues with the efficacy of the project. He claimed that the route proposed by the town could be “doomed to fail as an emergency escape route because of the prevalence of trees and wetlands through which the proposed roadway runs.”

Mattapoisett resident and Old Slough Road abutter Bill Fredricks echoed that sentiment, drawing on his experience as a commercial airline pilot. 

He claimed that if a hurricane did pass over Mattapoisett, it would topple trees over Old Slough Road, blocking the emergency access route to Angelica Avenue. 

Other Mattapoisett residents like Jim Dildin, think the town should “go with a viable proposition that's being proposed here tonight and not get distracted.”

Mattapoisett resident and Land Trust board member Paul Osenkowski agreed, saying “We've provided a situation for [residents] to get out. We've worked with [town departments]. We have good plans that are going to work … I beg you to approve this because we need to have an auxiliary exit for people who are in danger.”