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To the Editor: Morse Ave. Fence is Dangerous

Whiting Ave. resident Ann Kavanagh believes the fence to be a mistake.

The following was written by Dedham resident Ann Kavanagh.

On Saturday, January 14, 2012, abutters erected a tall wooden fence across the entire width of Morse Avenue which blocked all access from Morse Avenue to Whiting Avenue. How can this be legal? How can this be right?

For at least 97 years Morse Ave while designated a private way, has acted as the
access point, either by car or by foot, to Whiting Ave for the residents of the area called “Whiting Park,” and for many other Town residents. Especially impacted are those students of Dedham High School and Middle School who walk to school each day from this area. Their travel time has been greatly extended and in the winter time made more dangerous when they have to walk on more snow covered streets.


Can a few people choose to turn a road shown on all Dedham maps as a thru way into a dead end road by simply building a fence?

Sincerely,

Ann F. Kavanagh

121 Whiting Ave, Dedham

Suzie January 23, 2012 at 06:16 PM
I assume all the cutting through was causing issues to the residents that abutted the road. As a Dedham resident near a park we have had off an on issues with teens drinking, littering and damaging property. It takes much work with the police to make it stop. If the people cutting through had respected the property I am sure the fence would not have been installed!
susan wilson January 25, 2012 at 12:07 AM
I am familiar with this walkway-- in winter an icy slope that was not maintained by the town and that led down to a blind curve on Whiting Ave. As far as I know erecting a fence on private property is legal, and in this case, much safer.
Avon Barksdale January 25, 2012 at 01:38 PM
Here's an actual legal interpretation of private way access in Massachusetts, from someone who actually knows - Mark Rumley, Medford's city solicitor: "Residents cannot put up a 'No Trespassing' sign at the front of a private way," he said. "The public has the right to pass on it. People think of 'private' in the sense of something being exclusive. But it's really private in that it has not been accepted as a public way, with public standards. It does not mean exclusivity. Being a way, it's open for the public to pass. "Do the people along the private way have rights in the private way? Yes," Rumley continued. "But those rights are subject to the right of the public to traverse the way. Some people will say to you that as abutters, we own to the middle of the way. When they say that, ask them to go to the assessors' office and see if the additional footage into the middle of the street is on their tax bill. I can tell you: No, it isn't. And do they want it included? No, they don't." This is from a Globe article in 2008. It also includes an opinion from Newton's traffic engineer, Clint Schuckel: "Schuckel said that private ways must be open to police and emergency vehicles, as well as snowplow trucks, so residents can't just park their cars in the middle of the street, or otherwise block the path with a sawhorse or gate." It looks like the fence is a clear violation of the law and should be removed immediately.
Pat Sullivan January 25, 2012 at 04:16 PM
I have elderly relatives who live in that neighborhood who I visit regularly. They have have complained about the problems on the pathway for years but have been too intimidated to do anything about it for fear of retaliation. Teenagers doing drugs, drinking, disturbing the peace, vandalizing things and worse. I know firsthand that the police have been there regularly (because I've seen them) but it hasn't gotten any better. Yes, there are many "good kids" who used it as a shortcut to school but the troublemakers ruined it for everyone. My relatives are very happy the fence is up and they tell me that all the neighbors they've talked to are more than pleased as well.
Michael January 25, 2012 at 05:42 PM
The fence is illegal. It should be taken down!
Michael January 25, 2012 at 05:47 PM
See Avon Barksdale's response above. Seems pretty clear to me.
Michael January 25, 2012 at 05:48 PM
If the fence stays up, I hope they get them for back taxes unpaid.
Pat Sullivan January 25, 2012 at 05:48 PM
And you know it's illegal how?
Pat Sullivan January 25, 2012 at 05:58 PM
You can interpret the law however you'd like to from a newspaper article but that doesn't mean it's illegal. Are you condoning the use of illegal drugs and underage drinking that goes on there within a stone's throw of the school? It seems most of the opposition is surrounding the fact that it will be inconvenient for people to have to go another route. What about what the neighbors have had to endure for years with no end in sight? These problems existed when I went to DHS which was a long time ago. I used to go a different way just so I didn't have to walk through there and be harrassed and bullied by a group of kids who had nothing better to do. I am willing to bet there are 10 times as many people who are in support of it being up as those who are against it. I hope it stays up for good.
Avon Barksdale January 25, 2012 at 06:21 PM
You can be against the fence without condoning illegal activity by teens. And whether or not "10 times as many people who are in support of it being up as those who are against it", that does not give anyone carte blanche to break the law in retaliation. Two wrongs don't make a right, these fence vigilantes need to work collaboratively with the police to solve any problems with teen crime. The Dedham police were VERY effective in ridding the Manor of a huge teen problem several years ago through a community policing approach, and I'm sure if these folks - who apparently are organized enough to build a fence - advocate as a group about the scope of the problem, they'll get results from the police.
Dan January 25, 2012 at 07:25 PM
I think the building of the fence sets a poor precedent, as two property owners across the street from each other on a private road could obstruct passage for whatever reason they choose (child safety, noise, etc). From what I've read on Facebook, it seems a number of longtime residents of Morse and Edison Ave are rather upset over it, and I have to believe the people who built the fence would have done things differently had they known how it would effect their neighbors. If community policing worked in one part of Dedham, why not apply it to this neighborhood in the interests of keeping the peace? I don't want to speak for people in the neighborhood, but perhaps they'd be willing to help out in policing this pathway in the interests of keeping it open.
Avon Barksdale January 25, 2012 at 07:52 PM
I do love that agreeing with the professional opinion of the municipal legal counsel - someone who does this sort of analysis for a living - from a nearby town is dismissed as "interpret(ing) the law however you'd like to from a newspaper article." That's rich.
Kathy January 26, 2012 at 12:26 AM
Definition of an Easement - an interest in land owned by another that entitles its holder to a specific limited use or enjoyment; also : an area of land covered by an easement Massachusetts GL C 187 2 - Easements by Prescription Section 2. No person shall acquire by adverse use or enjoyment a right or privilege of way or other easement from, in, upon or over the land of another, unless such use or enjoyment is continued uninterruptedly for twenty years. 20 years has well passed. Time for those who want the fence down to get a lawyer!!
jill restnerson February 08, 2012 at 02:45 AM
I'll keep it short: with the fence the morning and afternoon police truck/car parked at the end of Morse Avenue is no more. Let's use some common sense here. The neighborhood was unsafe and required daily police presence. I too liked cutting through but safety, regardless of who is annoyed by the fence, is the number one priority for my family. I could care less about the legal mumbo jumbo or the inconvenience it's caused. Mr. Avon do you live on this street and see drugs being dealt and your lawn being urinated on. Likely not.

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