Hampstead council rescinds road deed Ownership of medians touched off controversy

October 30, 1997|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

A controversy over the ownership of road medians in Hampstead's largest residential development has pitted the Town Council against the mayor.

In a special session Tuesday, three council members -- the only officials to attend the meeting -- voted to rescind their approval of a road deed because it did not include the seven medians in the Robert's Field subdivision of 650 homes.

Councilman Wayne H. Thomas, who called for the special session, said Mayor Christopher M. Nevin deleted language from the deed without informing the council, which approved the document sight unseen this month. Typically, approval of road deeds -- which makes the town responsible for maintenance -- is a routine exercise for the five-member council.

Nevin, who had a scheduling conflict and could not attend the session Tuesday, said the issue has been resolved.

"There appeared to some confusion about responsibility for the islands," Nevin said yesterday. "The issue is resolved, and the town will accept the islands."

The medians were part of a public works agreement, negotiated in 1993 with the developer, Woodhaven Building and Development Inc.

"The council never saw a copy of the road-bed deed and no one questioned it," Thomas said. "I was surprised when I finally did read it that it excluded the roadway islands. I won't be voting again for anything I haven't read."

The public works agreement states that the town will assume maintenance of medians once the subdivision is completed.

"The islands are excluded from the covenants," Thomas said. "The homeowners can't spend money on things they don't own. The agreement clearly states the town shall accept the property."

The work includes mulching and caring for shrubs and trees on the 4-foot-wide medians, which run the length of several street blocks.

The Fields Homeowners Association, which has maintained the islands for about nine years, at a cost of about $4,600 annually, asked the town to assume the work as of June 30, said Mary Jo Pollock, association president.

"We are not obligated to maintain the islands and have been trying for several months to have the town take this over," Pollock said. "The town owns them."

Thomas contends the council insisted on including the islands in the deed, but the mayor overrode their wishes without informing them.

"It is an erosion of trust," Thomas said. "We had explicitly argued for inclusion of roadway islands."

The mayor's action showed a lack of procedure and policy, said Councilman Stephen A. Holland. Holland wondered if the mayor had not informed the council of other items. He will ask for a review of policy at the Nov. 11 council session.

"He should not be acting on his own," Holland said. "Nor should he represent himself as the voice of the council."

Nevin has instructed the town attorney to revise the deed and include language on the medians.

A copy of the revised deed arrived at Town Hall late Tuesday.

The town will immediately take over maintenance of the property and will probably provide the same service to other subdivisions, Nevin said.

Pub Date: 10/30/97

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