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The Valley Reporter
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Waitsfield, VT 05673
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"Property owners beware"

09/03/2009

By Jim Jones

I am writing because I have been hearing and reading with some disgust about the shortcut path to the elementary school here in Warren. From the beginning, this looks to me like the town is steamrolling over individual property rights, driven by what I would call the secret Warren School political society -- the group of  parents who get together to help influence town policies at school functions and after school when they pick up their kids.

People who have lived in Warren all their life, and pay their taxes, should not be overrun by this local political machine. I believe the instigators of this issue should have dealt with their neighbors face to face in a kind and friendly manner instead of wasting the town of Warren's time and money on it. As a taxpayer and a landowner, I feel this is an outrage! These people don't want you on their land! Respect that and move on! But no, instead we paid a lawyer on the taxpayer nickel to spend time digging up what looks like some vague right of way from the 1800s.

When neighborhood relations start out with people not respecting their neighbor's privacy, by cutting trees and generally trespassing on their land, we're already off on the wrong foot. Why didn't someone approach the property owners and ask them for permission first? Is this how these things are handled where you come from? When someone puts No Trespassing signs up, they have every right to expect them to be heeded unless some kind of an agreement is reached.

I see a few questions that this issue raises and we should be thinking about. Does the town of Warren assume all liability for the use, and potential misuse, of this trail? What about the potential of child abusers lurking in the woods, waiting for stragglers? (Not really so far-fetched, since this whole idiotic thing has been so highly publicized.) What about maintenance? Is this another task to be shoveled off toward the road department? As if they don't already have enough to do. Do the landowners get a tax credit for giving up a portion of their land like the town is attempting to force them to do?

Since, according to Paul Gillies, the right of way has been there since 1858, is it a retroactive tax credit? After all, the town has essentially been charging them for something they technically haven't had any say over for 150 years.

How wide is the town right of way on the road through the village? Does this mean that because it is a public right of way, we as a community can do with that property as we please? A wide variety of annoying things can be done in somebody's front yard within the town right of way. So, if you see me with a tape measure in your front yard, measuring from the center line of the road onto your property, worry not, I'm just making sure I have room enough to set up a tent...or something. After all, it's in the town right of way. That means we can all use it. Right? Of course, I'm not serious about using anyone else's front yard for anything, but I hope you see my point.

My brother and I own a piece of land in Warren Village. I'm wondering how much the neighbors would like it if, just because we have a right of way to it, we develop that right of way. Then drive up and down it daily, to check on our property, or just because we have the right. I expect there would be some opposition from the people who actually own the land our right of way is on, since it's in their backyard.

The people who are driving this injustice should think twice about what they are doing. Think about how they would feel if the shoe was on the other foot. Especially if there is a right of way through their property, or even the potential for one. Property owners beware!
 
Jones lives in Warren.

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