Planning commission postpones Old Two Rod Highway decision

The Planning and Zoning Commission voted to postpone responding to theBoard of Selectmen’s request to discontinue the largely impassable, 33-foot-wide pathway known as Old Two Rod Highway during its July 11 meeting.

On July 5, the selectmen voted to discontinue the 18th-Century path and request an 8-24 report, required on any change of use of municipal property, from the Planning and Zoning Commission.

Commissioners reviewed the request during their July 11 meeting and were hesitant to get on board with the selectmen’s decision.

If the planners agree it makes sense to discontinue Old Two Road by approving the 8-24 request, Town Planner Bob Nerney would report back to the Board of Selectmen. If planners do not respond within 35 days, the discontinuance would still move forward.

Regardless of the town’s plan of action, taxpayers will have a say in the matter during a special town meeting in the fall, where any decision could be overridden by majority vote.

Old Two Rod Highway is a car-wide dirt path which extends north from the dead end of Wampum Hill Road toward the old Gilbert & Bennett wire mill.

“It’s inadequate, yet constitutes a town road,” said Nerney. “We have this town road with all the responsibilities that come with it, that literally is impassable.”

A few years ago, property owners Christopher Montanaro and Laurie Ann Deilus sued the town and the Aspetuck Land Trust to get access to a 9.8-acre parcel of land on the property near the Wilton-Weston border, which could not be accessed by any direct right-of-way.

The duo sought a declaratory judgment that the road was a public road because they wanted access to the 9.8 acres, which they are looking to divide.

During legal proceedings, Montanaro argued Old Two Rod Highway is a public right-of-way, even though it has been effectively abandoned for at least 50 years. The courts agreed with Montanaro that it was a town road which had not been legally abandoned.

This left the town with the option of either leaving the road as is or discontinuing it — the latter of which “makes sense from a development standpoint” because it would allow anybody seeking access to develop it to “driveway-plus standards,” Associate Town Counsel Pat Sullivan said during the selectmen’s July 5 meeting.

Nerney told the Planning and Zoning Commission that discontinuing the road wouldn’t strip people’s rights to develop, but would instead observe the rights of the properties that are there.

By discontinuing the road, he said, the road “reverts back to the adjoining property owners on each side” and would be “put into private hands in terms of development and access.”

“The standards for driveways are far less restrictive than they are for roadways,” said Nerney. “I think the idea is to not take away development rights, but not to encourage overdevelopment that really, just really cannot be accommodated in today’s conditions.”

Nerney said he is concerned that the perpetuation of land division on Old Two Rod Highway would lead homeowners in the area to turn to the town and request the road be built to town standards.

“I don’t think the town is in the position of spending a lot of money to build something that apparently has no developed use to it,” he said.

To move forward with the discontinuance, Nerney said, he needs a consensus to report back to the Board of Selectmen, which the Planning and Zoning Commission could not give at the July 11 meeting.

Instead, the commission voted to further study and discuss the subject at its next meeting. Nerney suggested the commissioners look at the plan of conservation development and walk the Old Two Rod Highway area.

The next Planning and Zoning meeting is scheduled for Monday, July 25, at 7:15 p.m., in Room A of the town hall annex.