To The Daily Sun,
On Jan. 19, the Moultonborough Board of Selectmen (BoS) held a hearing on revised minimum recommendations for private roads. The hearing was well attended as rumor had it that roads that would not meet the new recommendations would no longer be plowed. Although the board denied this, the BoS declined to coherently explain why the recommended minimums were being significantly augmented.
The increased recommendations are irrational. For instance, the minimum recommended width for a private road is to be increased from 16 feet to 20 feet, a 25 percent increase. The shoulder width is to be 5 feet on each side. Yet the minimum legal requirement for an approved public road in an approved subdivision (Sec. 7.2E Town Subdivision regulations) is only 18 feet with a 2-foot shoulder, 2 feet narrower and 3 feet less for each shoulder than the new recommendations for private roads.
Both prior to and at the hearing, requests for information as to the rationale for the revised recommendations, including whether the board even had the authority to impose such recommendations, was not forthcoming. Before the hearing, the town administrator (TA) had said that the BoS had authority under the general "prudential affairs" (RSA 31:39) doctrine to impose new requirements, even though the statutory authority for road specifications lies with the elected Planning Board under the Zoning Ordinance and Subdivision Regulations (RSA 672, et seq.).
Specifically, the TA said:
1. "We are not addressing any "requirements" for private roads only recommendations."
2. "The existing policy has no consequences for not meeting the recommendations. The amendments do not include any as well."
Notwithstanding the above, the board asserted that, if approved, the new "recommendations would be retrospective, applying to existing private roads. Of course, according to the TA, a failure to comply will have no consequences while the town's subdivision regulations require Planning Board approval for new roads with less stringent requirements.
It should be noted that under state law, there is no definition or classification of what constitutes
a private road. To add to the confusion, the TA stated before the hearing that the only compilation of town and private roads in Moultonborough resided with the State Department of Transportation (DOT) through its "DOT Node Maps" and that he was not surprised that official town tax maps were inaccurate. Then, two days before the hearing, the administrator located what he described as "a 'Town Street Index Book' at the highway garage that has a listing for all town roads (we believe) that was created and maintained by the town's road agents over the years which indicates their class, length: private vs. town etc."
This "Index Book" was not available prior to the hearing at Town Hall where it should have been available for inspection as a public document. As a result, participants at the hearing had no basis for determining what roads are private for purposes of these new and absurd recommendations.
In light of what can only be described as a virtual reality hearing for an amended policy that will have no consequence, it is requested that the Moultonborough Select Board not only reject the proposed amendments, but also repeal Town BoS Policy 2, "Recommended Minimums for Private Roads," nunc pro tunc (now for then).