Oak Bluffs plans to take land from Eastville homeowners to facilitate a shared-use path (SUP) project. The land taking will come in addition to land the commonwealth intends to take in furtherance of the SUP. The reason Oak Bluffs is taking land, according to the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT), is because part of Eastville Avenue is owned by the town, as opposed to the state.
“A section of this project is located on state-owned roadway, and a part of the project is on locally owned roadway,” MassDOT spokesperson Judith Reardon Riley emailed. “Right of way acquisitions are traditionally conducted by the respective roadway owner. In this case, the portion of roadway is owned by the Town of Oak Bluffs, and their partnership with MassDOT is appreciated as they work toward acquiring these parcels.”
Oak Bluffs has placed the land takings on the 2021 warrant. An executive summary states the article was placed on the warrant at the request of MassDOT.
“This is a technical article, which the [MassDOT] requests in order to furnish it with the legal rights necessary to perform the actual construction of the SUP,” the summary states. “This [MassDOT] article asks the town to authorize the selectmen to negotiate and acquire easements, both temporary and permanent, to provide for the construction of a shared-use path from the Lagoon Pond Bridge to the intersection of Eastville Avenue and County Road.”
The summary also states that money “will be” appropriated to get the easements, “but it is anticipated that most, if not all, will be secured by donation or gift.”
Passage of the article requires a two-thirds majority vote. No estimate of the amounts to be appropriated have been provided in the warrant.
‘Dead Man’s Corner’
Meanwhile, the state’s quest to acquire land for the SUP rolls on. Eastville Avenue property owner Caroline Evans is displeased that MassDOT has targeted her land for land taking. “They want to take a fairly large part of my property, including the two ends of my semicircular driveway,” Evans said. The taking will destroy screening trees at the front of her house, she said.
“I’m losing trees, especially one very large tree,” she said. “When I bought the property in ’89, it was already quite tall.”
Evans doesn’t believe the SUP should go along Eastville Avenue past her home for safety reasons. She doesn’t believe any amount of civil engineering will make the sharp corner in the vicinity safe. “The thing that the town and the state should be concerned about is the safety of this corner,” she said. “It’s never safe and it’s never going to be safe.”
Evans said she wants the existing bicycle path that wends through the hospital’s property to be incorporated into the SUP — a position her neighbor shares. Evans said she wrote the select board about her concerns, but “never heard from anybody.”
Alice Butler, office administrator for the select board, confirmed Evan’s handwritten letter had been received.
Dated Jan. 28, the letter states in part, “I am acutely aware of the dangerous corner in front of my house. I call it ‘Moped Corner,” but Mr. Roma of the Eminent Domain Dept. at MassDOT told me that the state calls it Dead Man’s Corner. (Perhaps Flood Corner?!) It will never be safe. Traffic traveling either way on Eastville will always go too fast, and access to our driveways will always be hazardous.”
The Times has independently verified that a MassDOT official referred to the corner as Dead Man’s Corner, though the agency itself doesn’t condone it.
“MassDOT does not use the terminology ‘Dead Man’s Corner’ to formally or informally describe this location, or any other location in the commonwealth,” Reardon Riley wrote.
“I built this house,” Evans told The Times. “The one that was here when I bought the land, I donated to Habitat for Humanity, and it’s over at the roundabout. One of the teachers from the high school actually bought it.”
Evans said she closed in the porch and enjoys her home, and now fears the land taking will diminish her property value by creating a nonconforming lot. She said she intends to get an appraisal and look into the ramifications of the land taking.
“I’m 81 and I’m fine, but I’m tired,” she said. “I can’t do this. I don’t want years of anger and struggle over something that’s a done deal if people want it done. It’s not fair and it’s not right, but that doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.”