Paris selectmen debate ATV use on Gravel Pit RoadPublished on Tuesday, Jan 24, 2012 at 12:12 am | Last updated on Tuesday, Jan 24, 2012 at 12:12 am
PARIS — A motion to bar ATV riders from accessing the town's right-of-way across David Everett's land failed Monday, with a tie vote.
Selectmen Jean Smart and Kenneth West voted to block ATV access on the road. Selectmen Ted Kurtz and Robert Kirchherr voted against it. Selectman Ryan Lorrain was not in attendance.
The issue has been brewing for months since David Everett, owner of E.C.I. Materials, banned ATVs from using the town's right-of-way through his land. He erected signs blocking ATV access after making a private crossing agreement with the town and the St. Lawrence & Atlantic Railroad, which owns the tracks.
At the Jan. 9 meeting, Everett told selectmen he didn't want to be held liable if anyone was injured while crossing the tracks.
Chairman Kirchherr said a lawsuit from Everett against the town was possible if selectmen didn't block ATV riders, but said “the threat of a lawsuit is irrelevant.” He said it was most important for selectmen to “do the right thing.”
Kirchherr also tried to set up a discussion between the X-Tra Mile ATV Club and Everett, but X-Tra Mile trailmaster John Goodwin rejected that idea, saying he'd looked to every option. The only alternative would take them past the Elementary School and a daycare, and down part of High Street.
“I don't believe this board would ever grant that access,” Goodwin said.
Last week, Goodwin told the Advertiser-Democrat that the crossing was an important access route to get to West Paris trails.
Selectman Kurtz began the discussion with what he called “law school, first term, easements, real property 101,” and said the 1964 easement granting the town access to the gravel pit did not give any restrictions on how that easement should be used.
He said the access road between the town's gravel pit and High Street the town's, and that the town had control over how that access road was used. That means the town can decide whether or not to allow ATV riders.
He said Maine law allows an easement to specify the purpose of a right-of-way, but the easement on the town's deed does no such thing. “The town has the right to make any lawful and legal use of the land that it wishes,” Kurtz said.
Kurtz said barring ATV access was discrimination against riders in town who have been using that section of the ATV trail for years. Kurtz said people other than town vehicles and contractors who use the road for gravel pit access use the right-of-way, and to bar one group from using it was to discriminate.
Selectman Smart said it was a matter of safety, and pointed to a letter from the town's attorney, Geoffrey Hole, which said the town might not be able to give others access to the right-of-way.
“I'm basing that on what Geoff has said more than once,” Smart said. The argument got heated when Kurtz said Smart didn't understand the law.
“Ted, you're not the only one in the room with a brain,” Smart shot back.
With a tied vote, the discussion ended without a resolution.
The ATV club is not allowed to cross the railroad tracks, but Kurtz said that was up to the railroad company to enforce. They won't, he said, but posting that the crossing is private and only for the use of the town and E.C.I. Materials protects the railroad company from liability if anyone is hurt crossing.