Amherst Town Council taking closer look at residents’ call to accept subdivision’s roads 

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

GAZETTE FILE PHOTO GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

By SCOTT MERZBACH

Staff Writer

Published: 02-15-2024 8:21 PM

AMHERST — As subdivision roads in one housing development are nearing acceptance as town ways, roads in another subdivision, completed by the same developer several years earlier, are in increasingly poor condition, frustrating homeowners who continue to await a decision by Amherst officials that would make them town roads.

“I’ve seen people swerve to avoid potholes, and in general the roads are not getting better, they’re getting worse,” Russ Tessier, a Hop Brook Road resident, told the Town Council on Feb. 5.

“The manhole at the end of our driveway is completely collapsed, taking part of our front yard with it,” said Jesse Ferris, another Hop Brook Road resident.

Twenty years after the completion of 28 homes on Hop Brook Road and Kestrel Lane, a development known as The Meadows, developer Tofino Associates is being asked by the Town Council to provide an as-built plan or an updated version of the definitive subdivision plan, a title certification and grants of easements to the town, at its expense, along with town engineer-recommended items, such as a report on the current condition of the road and estimation of whether and when the roads will likely need resurfacing.

While the Town Council’s decision to explore the situation further doesn’t resolve the matter of the poor road conditions, it moves a step forward toward finding a solution to fix a longstanding problem.

Earlier, the Town Council voted to accept three roads in Amherst Hills, another Tofino Associates project, but Town Manager Paul Bockelman said that similar action couldn’t be taken on The Meadows. “There’s a substantial amount of work that needs to be done on the roads before the town engineer would recommend that you accept it,” Bockelman said.

Since The Meadows roads were last discussed by the previous Town Council, Bockelman said he worked with the neighborhood and its homeowners association to get a contribution toward the necessary repairs while looking at putting town funds toward the work and seeking money from the developer for a “tripartite solution.” But the developer was unwilling to put money forward.

Ted Parker, a representative of Tofino, said just three small items were left incomplete in 2004 to get the road to subdivision standards, inspected and accepted by the town. He’s not certain why this didn’t happen, calling it a “sticky situation” following the death of Tofino owner Doug Kohl in 2010.

Article continues after...

Yesterday's Most Read Articles

Jena Schwartz: Things I have not said
In federal lawsuit, teacher accuses Amherst schools of violating civil rights, other district policies
It’s official: Belchertown’s request to create town manager position OK’d by state
Defying the odds: Hadley’s Owen Earle back competing less than two years removed from horrific accident
As Hadley works on energy storage bylaw, some question why the town has to allow them at all
Amherst officials cool to bid to double spending hike for regional schools

Now, he said Tofino is not willing to pay for road upgrades. “Is a developer expected to be responsible for the maintenance of a road in perpetuity?” Parker asked.

Douglas Donnell of Hop Brook Road, the president of The Meadows Homeowner Association, said this has left residents in legal limbo, as the developer owns the roads but doesn’t want to maintain them or finish the “punch list” of final work to do. The town won’t accept the road until it is improved or the town is provided with a punch list of the needs, and the homeowners can’t hire a contractor due to Tofino being the owner of the roads.

“It basically boils down to the punch list, and who’s going to pay for it,” Donnell said.

The homeowners association solicited its own estimate from Warner Brothers, finding that $150,000 in work remains. “We are asking tonight for you to accept our roads, because we’ve been in limbo for many, many years, and as time goes on the roads deteriorate and the costs go up,” Donnell said.

Parker said Tofino will provide the as-built plan, title certification and grant of easements for the roads it still owns. “Tofino is clearly happy to provide a, b and c at its expense,” Parker said.

Other roads reviewed

Before the discussion regarding The Meadows subdivision, the Town Council voted unanimously to accept the roads in the Amherst Hills subdivision — Hawthorn Road, Concord Way and Linden Ridge Road, excluding the cul-de-sac —as public ways, and to refer the layout and plan to the Planning Board for its review, with a report back to the Town Council within 45 days.

James Masteralexis of Linden Ridge Road, a group leader of 32 homeowners who live in Amherst Hills, said the road acceptance is coming after four years of legal wrangling between the residents and Tofino.

“The roads in Amherst Hills have been completed. They’re in really good shape and, as such, as you eventually go through this process, you should accept these roads as public ways,” Masteralexis said.