Accepted Roads and Private Ways
Many have noticed that new “Private Way” signs have been popping up at various points around Town. What are Accepted Streets and Private Ways, and why should you care?
An Accepted Street is a street or road that has been accepted by and is now owned by the Town. The Town owns the street and the land upon which it runs, including the responsibility to maintain the street – fix potholes, re-pave when necessary, plow snow, and perform other safety-related tasks. On the other hand, a Private Way is a street or road owned by a private entity and not owned by the Town. This means the Town cannot fix potholes or perform other maintenance on the street. Although Plainville has historically plowed most Private Ways, that practice is not generally advisable. It may, in fact, be illegal (it is, in some senses, at least trespassing and may also amount to spending public funds on private property). The most significant difference for residents is that the Town cannot maintain or re-pave private ways.
How does a street become “Accepted?” There are two primary groups of Accepted Streets in Plainville. The first were streets/roads that had been accepted by Wrentham before 1905 and were identified as such when Plainville was created in the 1906 Map of our new Town. These include Berry Street, Cowell Street, Cross Street, Fales Road, George Street, etc. The second group is streets that were “accepted” by the Town, generally at a Town Meeting and by subsequent actions of the Select Board. Those streets were most often (though not always) part of developments being built around the Town after the completion of the development. You may recall recent Town Meeting votes to accept Saddlebrook Lane (2016 Annual Town Meeting) or the streets in the Mirimichi Estates (such as Trotters Lane, 2020 Special Town Meeting). Those Town Meeting votes were followed by actions “accepting” the transfer of the land on and around the street to the Town by the Select Board and the appropriate steps with the Register of Deeds.
Several streets in Town were not put through the final steps for acceptance, usually due to the developer’s lack of action or interest. Some of those, such as Horseshoe Drive (2023 ATM) or Bridle Path (2019 STM) were brought up to specification, and the Town voted to accept the streets. The Select Board accepted the land transfers associated with acquiring the street. Other streets, such as Dorothy Lane and Oakridge Drive, were largely built as the Town required, but the developer walked away without finishing the process. Those streets the Town is looking at the potential of accepting, although nothing yet is definite. Still, other streets were not built according to Town requirements or are in such a deficient state that the Town likely will not work towards accepting those streets.
How do you know if you live on an Accepted Street or a Private Way? At the time you buy your house, there are no requirements for anyone – either party’s real estate agent, your attorney, the bank, or the mortgage company – to inform you, so you need to ask. I can tell you from personal experience that when I bought my first house, it was the last thing on my mind. We often assume that there is a street in front of the house and the Town will fix it, pave it, and do the necessary. With that in mind, the Town is adding “Private Way” to the relevant street signs so that all, especially the residents of those streets, know their status and can set their expectations appropriately.