Letter: Abide by state law on rights of way
To the editor of THE EAGLE:
There has been so much published and so many people fighting over rights of ways. Every situation is different, but in every situation people must follow the state law first.
At the last Dock committee meeting in Lanesborough, the question of who owns the rights of way was put to the town counsel. The response was, According to Massachusetts Law MGL 183, s/s 58 and as reiterated by the chair of the Dock Committee: "The adjacent property owners own to the center of the rights of way." Whether it be called a right of way, Paper Street, Paper Town Street, Town Street, water course, monument -- the abutters own the right to the land to the center.
Some of the folks in Lanesborough believed they had deeded rights and recently found out that the state law says otherwise. Many wrongful acts of taking over other people’s property as their own is trespassing by any standard and sometimes worse. In some cases the town has said it owns the land that it does not own and have given wrongful permission for chosen people to use that land for their private dock and boat. Seems quite unfair on many levels. Taking away another’s property without permission, contract, or compensation, means no ownership by the town that would be illegal -- it must just be a simple misunderstanding.
Statement from town counsel in 2012: "The adjacent landowners own the rights of way. The town has acquired no ownership interest in the right of ways."
Statement from town counsel when asked "who owns the rights of way?" in 2014: Massachusetts State Law MGL 183, s/s 58, and also at the meeting for dock bylaws, it was reiterated by the chair that the adjacent or abutting property owners of a right of way ... own to the center.
So everyone needs to understand that land court Massachusetts law holds and has for centuries. The rights of way are simply to pass through, not to be blocked, especially with a dock belonging to someone who owns no land there.
The adjacent property owners must give permission for any structure to be placed on their land in the right of way. Of course if the owners face constant trespass, they may be able to work together to close off the pathway to the public altogether, due to the abuse.
So people should be kind and try to get along and not be aggressive by acting entitled to something that does not belong to them.
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