SANDOWN – A neighbor dispute over a public right of way has been festering for years in the area of Hemlock Circle and Balsam Lane, and at their June 3 meeting, the selectmen again made it clear that it was not a town issue and the matter needed to be handled by the residents involved.
The matter centers on a 30-foot portion of a longstanding right of way access known as Spruce Lane. Spruce Lane and Amy and Mark Beaulieu’s driveway are for a short time the same road, and some neighbors complain that access through is being hindered. In 2011, Mark Beaulieu created a separate access around his driveway which caused much consternation to those same neighbors.
The matter has been an issue for years and has already resulted in at least one civil action, felony charges for assault, and bail conditions that keep neighbors apart. In July 2012, Beaulieu was arrested for criminal trespass. During that same incident, Rocco Piccirilli, Rocco Piccirilli Jr., and Richard Lord were all arrested for Second Degree Assault, Criminal Threatening, Disorderly Conduct, Criminal Restraint and Obstructing the report of a Crime.
Derry District Court recently found that claims Rocco Piccirilli brought in a civil suit were without merit.
Though the selectmen and representation from the planning board have previously stated that the matter is not a public responsibility, neighbors have again asked for the selectmen to step in. Selectman chair Tom Tombarello explained that he recently visited the site when asked to by neighbors Piccirilli and Lord. To that meeting he asked police chief Joe Gordon, fire chief Bill Tapley, and public works director Artie Genualdo. Those three, Tombarello said, are the ones capable of deciding if the town needs to take action to make sure public services could reach the area.
“I met with them down there to do my due diligence, but I can’t stress enough that we shouldn’t get involved in civil matters,” said Tombarello, adding that after his visit he was even more certain that it wasn’t in the selectmen’s purview. On that day a fire truck was brought down and was able to access the area. It was this, the selectmen argued, which made the matter solely a private matter. All the town needed was access for emergency equipment, they said.
Correspondence from town counsel, as explained by town administrator Lynne Blaisdell, buttressed that opinion. But because the fire truck can access it one day, it doesn’t mean it can access it the next. Gordon came back later in the evening to update the selectmen on his end of things and explained that since the fire truck made its pass someone had placed rocks and cement blocks across the entrance. During the discussion, Gordon was outside with an irate and vocal Piccirilli who wanted access to the meeting despite a court order that he can’t come in contact with Mark Beaulieu.
Gordon explained that the matter was a difficult one to enforce because much of it takes place on private property and the narrow right of way as depicted on plans was all he could regulate. Engineer Tim Lavelle was also on hand to offer his expert opinion. Lavelle’s father helped subdivide the parcel years ago. Lavelle stated that he’d been asked half a dozen times to survey the area. He said that while a fire truck could get through, as it was within the chief’s right to ram things out of the way in an emergency, the access was more difficult for everyday visitors.
Dorothy Lewis, who owns a camp on Spruce Lane, spoke about her own difficulties accessing her property, but added that the matter had gotten out of hand and had become unhealthy for neighbors. Lewis remarked that she had been using the camp since 1973. Lewis added that neighbors should be able to talk things out and come to an agreement and no such issue was worth a person’s health. Tombarello, impressed with Lewis’ take, half jokingly suggested that she handle diplomacy for the matter.
Selectmen urged the neighbors to enter into mediation. The selectmen also agreed to contact counsel to investigate the particulars of sending a letter to all parties, including insurance and mortgage holders, stating that the town can not ensure access to the area during an emergency. This tack was suggested by counsel already to protect the town. A meeting between the selectmen and Rocco Piccirilli is scheduled for June 17.