15 Sep 2014
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Morse Ave. Fence Raises Questions, Concern

A new fence that prohibits travel from Morse Avenue to Whiting Avenue has caused concern for a number of local residents.

Morse Ave. Fence Raises Questions, Concern Morse Ave. Fence Raises Questions, Concern

A recently-erected fence cutting off access from Morse Avenue to Whiting Avenue has caused frustration among area residents in Dedham. 

The fence comprises two sections, one on the end of Morse Avenue and the other on Whiting Avenue. A paved path between the two roads was previously used as a cut through, mostly by pedestrians and students aiming to get to and .

Edison Avenue residents Tom and Ellen Clinton first noticed the fence on Jan. 14, blocking their access from one road to the other. The couple said no notifications were given to neighbors or other residents, no hearings were held, and there was no input by deeded residents of the Whiting Park subdivision. 

"We and many other Dedham residents have had our rights violated," the couple said in an email to Dedham Patch this week. "How does a road that has been used by both cars and foot for 97 years, and to which some residents have deeded right to access, be declared private property and a stockade fence barrier be built barring access to all?"

Similarly, a  earlier this week by Whiting Avenue resident Ann Kavanaugh sparked a wide array of comments from local residents. 

But Dedham officials said the matter is not within their realm of control, as the path is not within the public way. 

"It's not something we have jurisdiction over," said Town Administrator Bill Keegan. "It's a private property matter. Something would have to be appealed through the courts or through the individuals themselves."

According to the , the decision to erect the fence came from abutters of the path after meetings were held with residents and officials, and concerns were raised as to increased presence in the area. 

Dedham Police, as such, issued the following statement when asked about the matter:

There have been a few meetings held with members of the town, concerned neighbors and members of the police department in regards to Morse Avenue. After these meetings, the abutters of the property decided to erect a fence to prevent this area from being used as a cut through. The police department has for a prolonged period of time had an increased presence in the area of all schools in order to ensure adherence to traffic rules, safe travel for the children and to make sure issues do not arise with children loitering in certain areas.

Meanwhile, in a Jan. 23 letter to the Dedham Board of Selectmen, Attorney Jonathan Eichman reviewed the history of the fence and related that only a portion of Morse Avenue is within the public way. 

According to town documents, Morse Avenue was originally portrayed as a through street connecting Walnut Street and Whiting Avenue, but in 1957 the town accepted, as a public way, a small portion of Morse Avenue and took an easement for public way purposes. 

The public portion of Morse Avenue begins at the intersection with Edison Avenue and extends in a northwesterly direction for about 117 feet, and does not extend to Whiting Avenue, nor does it include the portion of Morse Avenue where the fence was constructed, according to town documents.

“The town’s records disclose no evidence that the town ever laid out or acquired an interest in any other portion of Morse Avenue or in any lands adjoining Morse Avenue,” Eichman wrote in the letter. 

He added, “based on the facts, in my opinion the portion of Morse Avenue lying outside the 1957 public way layout must be considered private property. I have reviewed no evidence that it was ever laid out and accepted as a public way or that the town holds any property interested in the lands in question.”

Eichman went on to state that in his opinion the town also has “no corresponding obligation to maintain the private portion of Morse Avenue or to keep it open for public passage.”

But residents, such as the Clintons, are still questioning the matter, and have expressed frustration over the fence's construction. 

"We have lived here for 36 years using Morse Avenue to Access Whiting Avenue," the Clintons stated. "In part, we purchased here because of its location and this access."

What do you think about the fence blocking access from Morse Avenue to Whiting Avenue? Let us know in the comments section below.

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