NEWTOWN SQUARE–A handful of Paper Mill Road and Paper Mill Lane residents attended Monday night's Board of Supervisors meeting to address their concerns about a new neighbor, who has made efforts to deny access to the neighborhood's old, defunct roadway.
The roadway, which runs through Newtown and Radnor townships, was once used in the early 1800s as a thruway for traffic from Skunk Hollow to Darby-Paoli Road, and has been closed to traffic since then. The residents of Paper Mill Road and Paper Mill Lane have been using the old roadway as a walking path to Darby Creek and trails in Radnor.
"At some point...there is a macadam surface partway down the property that exists at the end of Paper Mill Road, and that stops and there's a trail that continues to the border of Radnor," explained Township Solicitor Richard Sokorai on Monday night. "That thruway was stopped from the Radnor Township side from being public access. They use it for private purposes now by Skunk Hollow. They use it now as a compost yard."
According to Sokorai, the resident who moved into the Newtown end of Paper Mill Road wishes to stop that path from being a public access and would like it to be private.
"The homeowner at the end of Paper Mill initially put up some cones and said that, 'This is private.' There's no specific easement listing Paper Mill Road as a roadway anywhere and we asked the homeowner to put the cones down so the resident could continue to access that area while we work through the issue," stated Sokorai.
Sokorai said Jamie Maccombie, the township's hired municipal engineer, had done a recent drawing of the property and with its intial look to the plan, Sokorai deemed the propert to be a public roadway.
"The homeowner can't adversely protest a township road," stated Sokorai.
Neighbors Disturbed With Blocked Access to Path
Bob Winter, who own a property on Paper Mill Road Paper Mill Lane, believed that there was also a traffic issue to the neighborhood. According to Winter, traffic will come down St. David’s Road and make a turn on Paper Mill Road and try to get out through the dead end. Winter suggested traffic signs indicating the roadway was a dead end.
In addition, Winter, a long-time resident in the Paper Mill neighborhood, stated that he wished to continue to utilize that road to Radnor as public access.
"We lived here for 32 years, and I can tell you it’s [the roadway] been used for 32 years. The township has been repaving it, plowing it, and maintaining it. So, it’s our desire to see this continue as a public road and I believe we feel that other things can take place to make it a more safer place," said Winter before the Board.
A handful of Paper Mill residents soon followed and shared the same sentiments as Winter.
Harry O'Brien, a 12-year Paper Mill Road resident shared, "We view that as an important asset of our community. It has always been important. And it remains important to us."
According to O'Brien, the homeowner sent a letter to Paper Mill neighbors stating that he would be installing a gate in order to block public access as he believed the road to be his property and private.
David Malone, president of the Paper Mill Civic Association and a 25-year Paper Mill Lane resident, stated, "It’s a beautiful creek [referring to the creek that runs by the roadway]. It would be a terrible loss to the community for somebody in the community to take it away like that."
In addition, one neighbor, John Monkemeyer, of Paper Mill Road, shared one of his biggest concerns was the homeowner's tactics in keeping the roadway private which included "private property" signs as well as "beware of vicious dogs" signs.
"One of our big concerns is that if that road is cut off, and they have a vicious dog that guards that property, there’s not going to be any access to get to the trails in Radnor. It’s kind of disconcerting. It is a great neighborhood and the children love to walk through there," said Monkemeyer.
Supervisors Take Steps to Resolve Issues
According to Township Manager Mike Trio, the paved portion of the roadway is approximately 255 feet and extends to approximately another 40 feet and has been maintained by the township throughout the years.
Supervisor John Nawn addressed the signage concerns that were brought up by the residents–both the lack of traffic safety signs and the signs put up by the homeowner around the property.
"We could easily put up a sign. We could put the signs up right away," stated Nawn in regards to Winter's comment about traffic signs needed in the neighborhood. In addition, "If they’re in the woods in the right of way then it should be put it down," stated Nawn about the private property signs placed along the roadway by the homeowner.
Supervisors Chairman Joseph Catania also shared his thoughts after the residents had spoken.
"There’s nothing that’s been presented that this person should have any superior rights. Give us a little more time to get our facts together before we make a decision on how we approach this guy," said Catania. "We’re not going to even approach one without everybody. If there are some reasons why we should negotiate then we will negotiate. We will look into it and hasn’t looked into the past because we haven’t had to since this property transferred."
Catania stated that he believed the township will be able to resolve the matter by the next meeting in April, if not sooner.