By Jon Bishop
DEVENS — The Devens Committee met Tuesday to talk about an issue that, in the words of Chairman Tom Kinch, has been informally discussed for a period of time: private roads.
The roads — Antietam, El Caney Alley, Chance, and Walnut — meet at a sort of intersection, and many people, mostly non-residents, use them as shortcuts. People also speed.
Thus, Kinch said, there is a safety issue.
According to Devens Fire Chief Joe LeBlanc, the roads functioned as service roads when Devens was a military base.
“Those are all private roads, service roads, access roads,” LeBlanc said, noting that the Fire Department and other safety officials need access to them.
Kinch asked the residents in attendance if they believed there was a problem in existence — speeding, safety, and so on — and many said that there was.
“I don’t know how many times I’ve tried to pull out of my driveway and have almost been hit by somebody speeding,” said Regina Kim. “It’s dangerous.”
Bonnie Barbosa said that her dog has almost been killed. Because of the risk, she doesn’t let her kids play outside.
“There is definitely a problem,” she said.
Jessica Terwilliger said she also fears for her kids’ safety. People come down the street around 30 mph, when the speed limit is about 15 or so. Sometimes, she’s had to step in front of cars to warn them that there are kids in the street.
“It’s just very nerve-wracking,” she said.
But since the upcoming Grant Road housing development would be nearby, John Knowles believed that the problem could become much greater. There are already a number of people who are misusing the access road, he said.
Thatcher Kezer, the new vice president of Devens, asked residents whether the problem was people who were lost and confused or people merely cutting through. The answer he received from many people: both.
He also agreed that there is a problem.
“From my experience, if you’ve got fast-moving cars and little kids, you’ve got a problem,” he said.
But then there was the question as to who was responsible for the roads. Phillip Crosby of the Condo Association said that his organization was responsible for the condo roads, and Mike Donabedian of the Homeowner Association said that his organization was responsible for the homeowner roads.
And Knowles said that MassDevelopment should take the lead, because Grant Road will increase traffic along the roads.
But Kinch said that they needed to “come up with a plan” where everyone can participate. People shouldn’t say one organization or group is responsible.
MassDevelopment’s Director of Land Entitlements Ed Starzec, who had met twice with residents of Walnut and talked about options for this issue, brought forward two possibilities: adding two pillars to the beginning of El Caney Alley, shrinking the entranceway, or adding an island to the beginning of El Caney Alley.
The pillars, or what the committee and those in attendance referred to as ‘Option A,’ were the favorite. But LeBlanc said that pillars would have to be built on both ends of the street.
The committee resolved to hold another meeting on April 9, which will be at 7 p.m. MassDevelopment would come with some costs for Option A, and attendees will talk more about piloting it. They would also discuss options from Starzec’s meetings with Walnut residents.
At the outset of the meeting, Kezer introduced himself.
“I am just thrilled to be here,” he said, and he noted that he’s spent his first week on the job “drinking from the fire hose.”
“There’s a lot of moving parts here in Devens,” he said.
He encouraged residents to talk to him about concerns or questions or ideas.
“I’m a very approachable person,” he said.