By Ann Wood
NORWAY — Selectmen did not heed Town Manager David Holt’s warning: If the town continues to plow Rye Knoll Drive, it can be inferred that a portion of the road is a public, rather than a private, way.
On Thursday, Aug. 6, the board voted 4-1, with Selectman Warren Sessions as the sole hold-out, to continue to plow Rye Knoll up to what is known as the Dorothy White house, which it has done since at least 1988.
The fact that the town has been plowing what Holt considers a private road came to light after it was alleged that a town plow damaged the White driveway — which it has been using as a turn-around — during an April snowstorm.
While it can’t be proven that the damage was done by a town plow — Holt said it could have been an oil truck — the town has agreed to repair it. If private property had been damaged on a public way, Holt says he would have needed more proof that the town was responsible before agreeing to the fix.
“If we do (continue to plow), we need to come up with a better turn-around,” he added.
Former Norway Town Manager Larry Todd stated in a letter to Rye Knoll resident Kenneth Gammon back in 1988 that “the town has maintained the balance of the road from Nobles Corner or Round the Pond Road to what is now known as Dorothy White’s home.” Yet town meeting voted on March 6, 1944, to “discontinue a quarter of the mile of road … the same being the road leading to the buildings formerly occupied by Henry White, deceased.”
Holt believes that it is a private road that was partially plowed because often the town did “good deeds” for people, such as plowing and sanding Forest Martin’s driveway.
“This might have fallen into that category. Dorothy White was a well-known person and the town could have done that for her,” he said.
Gammon and Dorothy White’s daughter, Katherine White Belmont, want the plowing to continue.
“We always found comfort to have that snowplow,” Belmont said. “It has always worked beautifully. We come here in the winter, even though I live in Massachusetts.”
Holt said it wasn’t personal.
“We don’t plow any private roads anymore that I know of,” he said, adding that there are 55 to 60 miles of private roads in town. “We can’t plow some of them and not others.”
Turning Rye Knoll Drive into a public road would be prohibitively expensive because, Holt said, it would need to be widened and paved to modern standards.
Sessions agreed, adding that town meeting made it clear back in ’44 that it is a private road.
And yet the other four selectmen didn’t want to create a hardship for Rye Knoll Drive residents.
“It’s been plowed a long time and I’m inclined to let it be plowed,” Selectman Bruce Cook said, and made a motion to do that and look for a better plow turn-around.
Only Sessions, who agreed with Holt that the action would assume Rye Knoll is a public drive, voted against the action.