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FH Roads: Whose are They, Anyway?

Grange Walk residents will be splitting road repair material costs with Fair Haven.

For nearly half a century, Fair Haven officials have gone down the same pitted road of trying to decide who is responsible for the maintenance of “private” streets.

Now they have struck what they feel is a feasible, albeit not unanimous, solution of compromise for fixing one of them — a fraught Grange Walk.

“We will be providing the labor and splitting the cost of materials with Grange Walk residents,” Mayor Ben Lucarelli said in an interview. “This is the only one of the seven private roads in the borough with which we’ve had this issue. Ninety percent of the thick file on private roads issues is filled with Grange Walk issues.”

Borough Council made the decision official at Monday night’s governing body meeting, with councilmen Jonathon Peters and Robert Marchese casting the dissenting votes. Councilman Eric Jaeger was absent.

The majority decision means that the administration will now send out a letter to all six residents on Grange Walk asking that they agree to split (six ways) a cost not to exceed $1,050 to fill the potholes on the street.

Until now, council has bucked repairing this or any other private road in town, taking the position that proven public roads take priority. Lucarelli also said that, for the most part, residents living on other private roads in the borough prefer to continue under the assumption that they are private for the sake of holding onto the seclusion aspect, regardless of maintenance issues.

Longtime Grange Walk resident Arthur Z. Kamin, who has rallied for the borough to take responsibility for the road, said he was content with council's compromise. However, he maintains that the borough is and always has been responsible for the road since it has yet to be proven that it is not public and its residents are taxpayers.

It's a matter of proving Grange Walk and the other roads are not public rather than that they are private, Kamin has said.

In addition to Grange, the roads that have been assumed private in Fair Haven are: Crozier Court, Brookside Farm Road, and Browns, Holly, Minton and Doughty lanes.

“Thank you, mayor, for working with us in trying to resolve this issue,” Kamin said at the meeting. “It’s been a long time coming. The street is a disaster area, really.”

The street ownership issue is one wrought with murky history. Dating back to before the borough was incorporated a century ago, the roads were assumed to be part of private estates. Sometime between then and about 50 years ago, the private status started to become questioned, as the estates were broken down and the roads turned into neighborhood streets that were falling into disrepair.

Faced with the dilemma of deeds that don’t dictate road ownership, officials had decided to concentrate on repairing roads they know for certain are public and regularly traversed by the public.

Doing the title research involved in determining road ownership would be cost prohibitive and not something for which council would be comfortable saddling taxpayers, Lucarelli and Peters had said.

If it turns out that the borough owns them, “will we be getting a refund?” Kamin asked.

“And if it turns out they aren’t, you’ll have to pay us back, right? Peters quipped.

JosephGhabourLaw July 02, 2012 at 02:34 PM
Who owns the road in front of the home you are trying to buy is an important question that you must makes sure is answered before you buy a home. If the road is a public road, then it is the city's responsibility to maintain it. If the road is private, then it is your responsibility to maintain it and that could be a very costly proposition. In Stonehill Property Owners Assoc. v. Township of Vernon, a 1998 case the property owners association brought action seeking reimbursement from township for costs incurred in providing certain municipal services for condominium community built on side of mountain. The Appellate Division held that: (1) association was not entitled to reimbursement of actual costs incurred; (2) association would receive 50% enhancement of township's cost of plowing public roads, for snow and ice removal performed by association; (3) association was entitled to reimbursement for electricity to light streets in the “same fashion” as public streets were lit; and (4) association was not entitled to reimbursement for street sweeping costs.

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