CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — The Town Council will begin a public engagement process to talk with residents about so-called “paper” streets.
Councilors on April 6 voted to start going into neighborhoods to meet and directly speak with residents to hear their thoughts and concerns.
Paper streets are roads that were laid out in subdivisions, but never constructed or accepted by the town as public ways. They are being discussed because in two years the town must decide which ones will remain under its oversight.
“This is really setting forth a process that will look at all of our paper streets and determine whether or not to renew them, determine what else to do with them,” Town Manager Mike McGovern said.
The report, which describes the location and current use of each paper street, suggests the town no longer keep the rights to four of the roads:
— Hazelwood, off Lindenwood Road in the Oakhurst neighborhood.
— Thompson Road, off Shore Road north of Beach Bluff Terrace.
— Allen Road, off Mitchell Road between Belfield and Stonegate roads.
— And a 200-foot, unnamed road off Pine Ridge Road in the Broad Cove subdivision.
Town Planner Maureen O’Meara said the impact of no longer keeping the rights would vary by road. She said if a road is abutted by properties, it would be split down the middle and half would go to each property owner. She said this wouldn’t add much taxable value to the property, though.
“There could be some impact on property owners, but I don’t see it being a significant change,” O’Meara said.
Councilors on March 16 met in an executive session with attorney Durwood Parkinson to discuss the town’s legals rights over paper streets.
In 1997 the town had its rights over paper streets extended for 20 years. With a re-evaluation of the roads coming in 2017, councilors have decided to speak with residents before making any decisions.
“I think it’s really healthy that the council is looking at the public engagement process at the beginning,” McGovern said.
McGovern said he believes Cape Elizabeth is the first town in Maine to start looking at paper streets so far ahead of its deadline.
McGovern said councilors will be going into neighborhoods like Shore Acres, Cottage Woods and Delano Park. He said he’s in favor of the plan for public engagement because it’s a “focused process.”
“It involves a process that’s open, but also one that has some parameters to it, because one of the criticisms we get of process is that people don’t know where to go and when to make decisions, and it just gets so drawn out that it just gets exhausting for citizens,” McGovern said.
Councilor Jim Walsh agreed, saying engaging with the public in their own neighborhoods is an effort by the council to meet the needs of citizens.
“This is a classic example of us trying to be proactive and taking a deliberate approach and more of an outreach,” Walsh said.
McGovern said he’s not yet sure when these meetings will take place, but that he’d like to “keep things moving along.” He said he’d like to see the process completed by next April.
The process of deciding what to do with paper streets will also include reviews from the Planning Board and Conservation Commission. The council will also hold a public hearing.