Guide Private Roads

Created by Bill Silver

This info includes regulations fromthe State of Mass. and the Town of Dennis. Other Cape Cod towns have similar, butmaybe somewhat different regulations. Repairs Private Roads Rights Snow Removal Grading


This information is for help only and is not warranted. For official info check with your State and Town officials.


jurisdiction as to enforcement. If members of the public are acting contrary to law, then they would be liable just as they would be for the same behaviors on public ways, but private way owners cannot independently restrict their lawful behavior. Note, dog-walking in and of itself would have to be considered as a lawful act. Also, one’s assessment of the type of person walking through the neighborhood does not give rise to any preventative actions by private way abutters. Cities/towns typically have by-laws regarding the private ways within that locale, but they almost always govern matters such as plowing, trash removal, and the like.

The designation of a way as “private” should not be viewed as bestowing too broad a range of special rights and protections for the owners of the abutting properties along the private way. The principle impact of a way being designated as private relates to who bears responsibility for maintenance of the way (usually the abutting owners), the various approvals required from the city/town for development of the way, and issues regarding utilities. The public does have a right to travel on private ways (drivers, bike riders, and pedestrians), and owners cannot prevent the public from lawful use of the way. It is possible for the owners to establish parking rules, but since it is a private way, police have very limited

Private Way Snow Removal (a)


Minimum standards for private ways to be eligible for emergency winter maintenance, consisting of snow plowing and sanding only, in accordance with Massachusetts General Law Chapter 40 Section 6c.

1. This policy is in effect for private ways open to the public. Private ways restricted or closed to the public by signage or gates more than one week per year shall not be eligible for snow removal services from the Town in accordance with Mass. G. L. c40, s6c. Examples of signs posted on private ways closed to the public include: “No Trespassing”, “Private - Residents Only”, or “Keep Out”, etc. 2. The minimum width for the travel surface of any private way shall be no less than (10’) feet wide and open to the public .

3. The height clearance shall be no less than fourteen (14’) feet from the road surface. This is to ensure access to snow plows and emergency vehicles. 4. The roadside shoulder shall be free of any obstacles, on both side of the way, including vegetation, fences, mailboxes, stonewalls, rocks, shrubs, trees or any other object that may interfere with snow removal equipment. This shoulder shall be maintained no less than two (2’) feet on both sides of the roadway.

Private Way Snow Removal (b)


8. Paved or unpaved private roads shall have no defects (potholes or ruts) exceeding two (2”) inches in depth. Defects in the road surface such as potholes or ruts must not deviate from grade more than two (2”) inches. Please contact the Department of Public Works (DPW) for possible remedy options (petition for grading, temporary repair, and acceptance of private way). When and if the Town appropriates funds, the Town may make emergency repairs to private roads that are integrated with the public road network at the discretion of staff in order to protect the Town’s investment in snow removal equipment.

5. There shall be an overall minimum of fourteen (14’) feet by fourteen (14’) feet corridor free from any vegetation and foreign objects. Shell and stone roadways will not be plowed. 6. There must be ample room for emergency vehicles to turn around if the road is a dead end. Space at the end of the road should be of sufficient size for emergency vehicles or town plows to be able to turn around in a safe manner. 7. Manhole covers, catch basins and roots shall be at or below grade.

Private Way Snow Removal (c)


9. The Dennis DPW will perform yearly inspections of all private roads and post a list of roads on the Town’s website and local newspaper by September 15th that do not meet the minimum requirements. The homeowners will be required to make repairs. When the repairs are completed the DPW will, upon request, re-inspect a roadway to ensure that it complies with standards and notify homeowners of their findings. If all minimum standards are met plowing and sanding services will be provided.

10. The Town of Dennis, its employees or sub contractors shall not be held liable for any damage to private property improvements while performing snow removal operations. Improvements such as, but not limited to, stone walls, fences, irrigation lines, cobblestones, mailboxes, lawns, shrubs or trees adjacent to the way and damaged as a result of snow result of snow removal operations will not be repaired or replaced by the Town or its agents.

Private Way Repairs (a) Example of a Town Policy



Adopted and Effective on September 13, 2005

1. Purpose and Authority:

The purpose of this policy is to provide a means by which the Town can provide assistance to abutters of private ways open to the public use wishing to effect road surface and/or drainage repairs of a temporary nature in order to extend the service life of these roads. This policy is not intended to provide assistance to those wishing to build new roads or to effect repairs to private ways closed for public use. The Board of Selectmen, under the authority of Chapter 156 of the Code of the Town of Dennis, and Article 31 of the 2005 Annual Town Meeting, and after holding a duly called public hearing on September 13, 2005, adopt these policies and procedures for the approval of temporary repairs to private roads open to public use for more than five (5) years.

Private Way Repair (b)


2. Acceptance of Petitions: Petitions shall be submitted to the Department of Public Works-Engineering Division by July 15th. Petitions shall be submitted to the Department on the petition form shown in Attachment 1. Copies of the form may be obtained at the Engineering Office, 120 Theophilus F. Smith Road, South Dennis. The petition shall be signed by at least sixty (60) percent of the abutters and/or beneficiaries of the road to whom betterments are to be assessed. The term beneficiaries , as used herein, shall mean any property owner who uses the road proposed for repair as a means of accessing their property and would benefit from the improvement. Thus the petition is not limited to those owners whose property physically abuts the road or section of road for which repairs are requested. The application shall identify, by the use of assessor maps or written explanation, the geographical limits to which beneficiaries shall be included. Each petition shall identify a person as the “Applicant”. A non -refundable fee of Five Hundred Dollars ($500) must accompany each petition. Although non-refundable, this fee will be included into the cost of the requested repairs and will be credited against the Assessment of Betterments when the work is completed.

Private Way Repair (c)


3a. Project Scope: Upon receipt of the petition, the Town Engineer shall designate a Project Manager who will perform an on-site inspection of the repair request and develop an initial scope of work. Where required, the on-site inspection of the road will be conducted in the presence of the Applicant. The Project Manager shall meet with the Applicant to review his findings and determine the final scope of work and cost estimate. Should the scope of work include surveying and/or engineering tasks that are beyond the ability or schedule of the Engineering Department to complete, the Project Manager shall include cost proposals from firms qualified to do the work and said costs shall be considered as part of estimate. After the project scope and cost estimate has been agreed to by the applicant, but no later than October1st, the Project Manager shall send a breakdown of their apportioned share of the betterment to each abutter and/or beneficiary. Upon receiving a signed form agreeing to repay the cost of the apportioned share from sixty percent (60%) of the abutters and/or beneficiaries, the Department shall issue a report to the Board of Selectmen for review. Should the Department not receive the required percentage by the first business day in December the project will be canceled. In such instance, a new application must be submitted pursuant to Section 2 of this Policy.

Private Way Repair (d)


3b. Project Scope:

At a public hearing held in February, the Board of Selectmen shall review the repair request and cost estimates and vote whether to recommend placing a funding request on to the warrant for a future town meeting. The Board of Selectmen shall approve a final list of abutters and/or beneficiaries and adopt an Order of Assessment together with an Estimate of Betterments, as provided under M.G.L. c80, s2 for selected projects. The Board may elect to postpone any repair requests or to cancel a project indefinitely. Following approval of funding at Town meeting, the Legal Department shall record the Order of Assessment and Estimate of Betterments at the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds within 90 days from the adoption of said Order.

Private Way Repair (e)


4. Assessment of Betterments and Method of Payment

Within six months of completion of the repairs, the Project Manager shall calculate the actual cost of the repair and send a list of the final apportioned shares for each abutter and/or beneficiary to the Dennis Board of Assessors. The Board of Assessor shall, with the consent of the owner of the land assessed, apportion assessments for the improvements and/or repairs into such number of equal portions pursuant to the following betterment assessment repayment schedule: ASSESSMENT REPAYMENT SCHEDULE AMOUNT PERIOD TO PAY $0-$499 No apportionment $500- $1,500 Not to exceed 3 years $1,501-$2,000 Not to exceed 5 years $2,001or greater Not to exceed 10 years Any project or subsequent work pursuant to this policy or by-law that exceeds $10,000 in estimated costs, or as otherwise determined by the Board of Selectmen, shall be funded by a temporary or permanent borrowing of funds, and costs related thereto shall be a part of the overall total project costs.

Private Way Repair (f)



a. Commencement of any work pursuant to this Policy is subject to Department of Public Works scheduling. b. Betterment assessments are a lien on the property, and assessed in accordance withM.G.L. Ch.80. c. Any maintenance of the completed work and future repairs of any work performed under this policy shall be the sole responsibility of the abutters or beneficiaries and not the Town of Dennis Department of Public Works. d. Abutters and beneficiaries inquiries and comments (unless in writing) shall be made through the Applicant and not directly to the Project Manager. 6. LIABILITY: The Town shall not be liable on account of any damages caused by repairs made under this policy and M.G.L. 84, s25 shall not apply to such repairs. Any requests for subsequent work related to the initial work shall be deemed to be a new request and subject to the provisions of the Temporary Repairs to Private Ways By-Law and this Policy.

Private Way Grading (a)


Petition to the Town of Dennis, Department of Public Works


We, the undersigned respectfully request that the Town of Dennis, Department of Public Works consider for the public convenience and necessity inspect and grade, a private way: __________________________________________

beginning at: __________________________________________ and ending at: __________________________________________

in the village of (circle one) Dennis, Dennisport, East Dennis, South Dennis, West Dennis. We also agree to allow the Town of Dennis to enter onto our land for the purpose of grading, and agree to defend, indemnify and hold harmless the Town of Dennis and its officers, agents, employees, contractors, subcontractors and assigns from liability for any and all losses, damages, costs, claims expenses and compensation arising out of, or in connection with, any work performed or to be performed by the Town, its officers, agents, employees, contractors, subcontractors or assigns in connection with the grading on said private way.

Private Way Grading (b)


We do hereby submit to you the following signatures below which represent at least sixty percent (60%) of the owners abutting the petitioned way.

PETITIONERS ADDRESS Petition filed by: _________________________Tel. Phone No. ____________________ Date received: ___________________________Date Approved: ___________________ Note: Use back of page for additional names if necessary. Grading-Petition to the Town of Dennis-rev12

Cape Cod Associates RE Harwich Port

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