Selectmen vote to discontinue Old Two Rod Highway

Two years after the court declared Old Two Rod Highway a public road, the Board of Selectmen has finally chosen a course of action regarding the largely impassible, 33-foot wide, 18th-century path. It will seek to discontinue it.

All board members, except abstaining selectman David Clune, voted for the discontinuance during the board’s July 5 meeting, but that does not mean it is a done deal. The matter will likely be the subject of a special town meeting in the fall.

A few years ago, Old Two Road Highway 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, said Associate Town Counsel Pat Sullivan, 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 the road had not been legally abandoned.

“A trial court judge said it's a public road [because] Norwalk proprietor set up a highway in 1730,” said Sullivan, “and even though this is sort of just a vestige on a map — sort of a shadow on a map — it is a public road.”

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.

Although the town “doesn’t have an obligation to develop or maintain a road,” she said, that could always change, and people with adjacent properties could ask the town to do that — the cost of which has been estimated in the millions of dollars.

The town had two options — either leave the road as is or discontinue it.

Left as is, “anybody who abuts it would have the right to develop it,” but only to public road standards, said Sullivan.

“There are a number of properties in there that wouldn't be developed, but there are a number that could be developed and potentially divided,” including Ambler Trust property, Sullivan said. “The opportunity is there now to build two houses, and Chris Montanaro is sort of looking to really move forward on that.”

Sullivan said a request to discontinue the road makes sense from a development standpoint because it would allow anybody seeking access to develop it to “driveway-plus standards.”

For the Board of Selectmen to discontinue the road, it would have to request an 8-24 report, required on any change of use of municipal property, from the Planning and Zoning Commission that "says it makes sense" to discontinue it, said Sullivan. The town would then vote on it during a special town meeting.

If the planning commission approves the report or does not respond within 35 days, the discontinuance would move forward, said Sullivan, and the decision could be overridden by majority vote at a special town meeting, which she recommended be held in the fall.

All selectmen except Clune, who once again abstained, voted to request the 8-24 report.