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Morse Ave. Fence Raises Questions, Concern

A new fence that prohibits travel from Morse Avenue to Whiting Avenue has caused concern for a number of local residents.

A recently-erected fence cutting off access from Morse Avenue to Whiting Avenue has caused frustration among area residents in Dedham. 

The fence comprises two sections, one on the end of Morse Avenue and the other on Whiting Avenue. A paved path between the two roads was previously used as a cut through, mostly by pedestrians and students aiming to get to and .

Edison Avenue residents Tom and Ellen Clinton first noticed the fence on Jan. 14, blocking their access from one road to the other. The couple said no notifications were given to neighbors or other residents, no hearings were held, and there was no input by deeded residents of the Whiting Park subdivision. 

"We and many other Dedham residents have had our rights violated," the couple said in an email to Dedham Patch this week. "How does a road that has been used by both cars and foot for 97 years, and to which some residents have deeded right to access, be declared private property and a stockade fence barrier be built barring access to all?"

Similarly, a  earlier this week by Whiting Avenue resident Ann Kavanaugh sparked a wide array of comments from local residents. 

But Dedham officials said the matter is not within their realm of control, as the path is not within the public way. 

"It's not something we have jurisdiction over," said Town Administrator Bill Keegan. "It's a private property matter. Something would have to be appealed through the courts or through the individuals themselves."

According to the , the decision to erect the fence came from abutters of the path after meetings were held with residents and officials, and concerns were raised as to increased presence in the area. 

Dedham Police, as such, issued the following statement when asked about the matter:

There have been a few meetings held with members of the town, concerned neighbors and members of the police department in regards to Morse Avenue. After these meetings, the abutters of the property decided to erect a fence to prevent this area from being used as a cut through. The police department has for a prolonged period of time had an increased presence in the area of all schools in order to ensure adherence to traffic rules, safe travel for the children and to make sure issues do not arise with children loitering in certain areas.

Meanwhile, in a Jan. 23 letter to the Dedham Board of Selectmen, Attorney Jonathan Eichman reviewed the history of the fence and related that only a portion of Morse Avenue is within the public way. 

According to town documents, Morse Avenue was originally portrayed as a through street connecting Walnut Street and Whiting Avenue, but in 1957 the town accepted, as a public way, a small portion of Morse Avenue and took an easement for public way purposes. 

The public portion of Morse Avenue begins at the intersection with Edison Avenue and extends in a northwesterly direction for about 117 feet, and does not extend to Whiting Avenue, nor does it include the portion of Morse Avenue where the fence was constructed, according to town documents.

“The town’s records disclose no evidence that the town ever laid out or acquired an interest in any other portion of Morse Avenue or in any lands adjoining Morse Avenue,” Eichman wrote in the letter. 

He added, “based on the facts, in my opinion the portion of Morse Avenue lying outside the 1957 public way layout must be considered private property. I have reviewed no evidence that it was ever laid out and accepted as a public way or that the town holds any property interested in the lands in question.”

Eichman went on to state that in his opinion the town also has “no corresponding obligation to maintain the private portion of Morse Avenue or to keep it open for public passage.”

But residents, such as the Clintons, are still questioning the matter, and have expressed frustration over the fence's construction. 

"We have lived here for 36 years using Morse Avenue to Access Whiting Avenue," the Clintons stated. "In part, we purchased here because of its location and this access."

What do you think about the fence blocking access from Morse Avenue to Whiting Avenue? Let us know in the comments section below.

Pat Sullivan January 27, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Why didn't this reporter speak to anyone who is in support of the fence? If he had taken the time to knock on some doors in the neighborhood he would have found out that there are many, many more people who support it than don't (I don't live in the neighborhood but grew up close by and saw firsthand the problems that existed when I was at DHS. I visit the neighborhood pretty regularly now to visit elderly relatives and have been appalled at what I have witnessed). What this article also failed to point out are the issues that the residents in the neighborhood have dealt with for years. Why didn't you ask the police how often they were on Morse Ave. to respond to repeated calls from neighbors who dealt with unruly teenagers - smoking pot, dealing drugs, drinking, vandalizing. If I lived there and had the chance to stop these issues from happening I would have put up a fence, too.
Robert Blizard January 27, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I actually grew up in the neighborhood and those instances were rare to say the least and composed of the numbers of pedestrians whom walk thru here this number would be absolutely miniscule! My understanding from the neighbors and family is that they are in fact strongly opposed to this. Bob Blizard
Avon Barksdale January 27, 2012 at 05:53 PM
The irony in all this is that kids will continue to deal drugs in the area, and when the cops show up the kids will hop the fence to avoid being caught.
Robert Blizard January 27, 2012 at 06:16 PM
I actually just heard of some the problems that recently have occurred here and understand why these abutters may have concearns. When I grew up in the neighborhood the neighbors handled alot of these issues unfortunately neighbors are not like they used to be in the past when neighbors could discuss with other neighbors. I guess a few bad apples spoiled the bunch in this case! It's too bad it certainly hurts property values and and the future of the "old neighborhood" but who cares about community anymore? right?
Ward January 27, 2012 at 07:49 PM
The users of this now blocked cut through may have an 'easment by prescription' should they wish to pursue the removal of the fence. JMHO
Avon Barksdale January 27, 2012 at 08:10 PM
Of course, the users who have an easement will need to pay for a lawyer to obtain an order affirming the easement and requiring that the fence be torn down. How neighborly of the folks who erected the fence in the first place, who likely knew full well that the folks next door would be denied their rights and have to pay through the nose to have those rights reinstated.
Bob Desmond January 27, 2012 at 10:08 PM
I would like to know where they had these mettings and how did they advertize them. Once again poor comunication in the town.
Dana January 27, 2012 at 10:53 PM
If the meetings were held with residents regarding private property then the town does not need to advertise them. What I find interesting is that people keep claiming they have a "right" to use this private property. How is this any different than someone standing on the Clinton's front lawn and using drugs, throwing empty beer cans on the ground, and urinating in their shrubs? Do they have a "right" to do that on their property?
Ward January 27, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Look up 'Easement by prescription'. I believe the trespassers have met the letter of the law on this. Again. JMO
Edna January 27, 2012 at 11:24 PM
If you trespass, it's illegal. If hundreds of people trespass every year and no one formally objects, and that goes on for DECADES, the trespassers gain some legal protections. The property owners are probably in the wrong here, legally. I do feel for them, but at the same time, that fence is hostile attempt at a solution. This will get ugly.
Dana January 28, 2012 at 03:01 AM
I am not a lawyer but the Town's counsel examined this and determined that the abutters have the rights to this land. It's spelled out in today's Dedham Times.
Cheryl Murphy January 28, 2012 at 01:11 PM
I am offended by Dana's remarks regarding the Clintons. Tom Clinton made his life's work helping troubled kids find another way to live. That remark is uncalled for on many levels . I also feel that the drinking and other accusations arenow being over dramaticized. Originally, the abutters main objection was to foul language used within earshot of their homes. Now the accusations are being upped precipitously as the debate goes on. I agree with Aimee that they do not pay taxes on this property, so it is not theirs and with Ward who cites "Easment by Perscription." Lastly, once again, the people who erected the fence were asked to have a conversation with their neighbors who opposed the fence going up. To say they declined is being polite.
Susan Webster January 28, 2012 at 04:01 PM
Exactly how tall is the fence? If it's over 6'6", they need to go to the Board of Appeals for a special permit...
Debbie McKillop January 28, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Has anyone noticed that it also is an EYESORE to what was once a beautiful neighborhood. It looks like someone just slapped up a fence iin the middle of a street. Kind of crazy if you ask me. I think it looks like some crazy mad people put it up and that I do feel bad about because they are at their wits end but that is just a pile of anger. Talk to your neighbors, come together and make things better not worse. Peace Debbie McKillop
Brendan January 29, 2012 at 01:07 AM
If someone gets injured somehow on this private road or by this private fence I am assuming that the fence builders have insurance for this kind of thing? Hopefully so because you know the kids may think the fence as some sort of joke & climb over or under ( the pic from Whiting Ave shows a big gap at the bottom)! JMHO
Brendan January 29, 2012 at 01:16 AM
Also, if you move 50 feet from the front door of a High School you should expect teenage kids to be in the area. Not that I don't feel bad they are hanging next to your homes but seriously it comes with the territory.
Pat Sullivan January 29, 2012 at 08:05 PM
So if you move 50 feet from the front door of a high school you should expect to put up with a group of trouble makers hanging out in front of your house disturbing the peace, using drugs, littering and harassing neighbors among other things? That's a bunch of baloney. As for these claims being "over dramatized" - have any of you been on Morse Ave. day in and day out, week after week, year after year, to make this claim? Do me a favor - call the police department and ask to see the public records to see for yourself how many times they had to respond to issues there. There was a police officer assigned to Morse every morning and every afternoon but it didn't solve the problems. The kids would just come back as soon as the police left. Why should these people have to put up with this just so that others can have a shortcut or a convenient place to park for a football game? And given that it was determined by the town to be private property (by the town's attorney mind you) then why the heck would these people continue to put up with this? In response to Ms. Murphy's post, the Clintons had to be well aware of these problems since, according to the article, they used the path so frequently. It wasn't in front of their house so I guess it wasn't their problem.
Joy January 30, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Thank you Pat for giving me insight on this neighborhood. As a new RE agent in the area I had no idea what a bad area this was & will make sure to steer my clients away from this part of East Dedham. That is terrible that these folks have to put up with this why aren't the police doing more? That fence can't be cheap so for residents to spend thousands on it must mean this area is really unsafe and I personally won't let my kids near Morse Ave now. Good luck and again thanks for the info.
Avon Barksdale January 30, 2012 at 02:23 AM
Morse Ave. - the West Baltimore of Dedham.
Mara S. January 30, 2012 at 02:31 AM
As a Dedham resident somewhat familiar with "Smokers Hill" I looked into the issue with a lawyer friend of mine. He said that the right of adverse easement would not apply in this case, regardless of the number of years people have been accustomed to trespassing here. Winning an easement case is very difficult in Massachusetts, and on registered land, it does not apply at all. Sometimes these online legal dictionaries can be misleading--a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. These posts are fascinating. Since when is sarcasm a reputable form of public debate?
Ronnie Black January 30, 2012 at 04:18 AM
Did your lawyer friend go to SUFFOLK UNIVERSITY??? Maybe you should speak to a real lawyer who knows about REAL ESTATE LAW!!!
Cheryl Murphy January 30, 2012 at 12:05 PM
I question the claim of ownership, if the property is indeed theirs why have they not paid taxes on it?
Avon Barksdale January 30, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Exactly - a "private property matter" and establishing ownership are two different things. The town has simply stated that it is not their concern - probably a good idea, otherwise every conflict between residents on a private way will drag the town into it and that would expend untold resources and funds.
Robert January 30, 2012 at 07:26 PM
I believe a title search establishes ownership; no big mystery. I am intrigued that Cheryl has access to the abutters' tax returns. I am also amazed that Ronnie, a man who expresses himself with all caps and multiple punctuation marks, thinks he is smarter than a Suffolk Law graduate.

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