, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 18, 2013

Discontinuance of River Road goes before Merrimac voters

MERRIMAC — A stretch of River Road that was damaged in the Mother’s Day storm of 2006 is at the center of a town-wide controversy to be presented to voters on Monday night at the Special Fall Town Meeting.

The meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Sweetsir School on Church Street.

Voters will decide whether to move forward with gaining permission from the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission for the permanent closure of the portion of the road that begins at the intersection of Skunk Road and River Road and extends one-half mile west.

The language asks the town to vote whether to “rescind the vote by selectmen for the petition issued to the Merrimack Valley Planning Commission for the discontinuance of the (River) Road.”

Selectmen Rick Pinciaro invites the input of town voters on the issue, but is quick to remind that an affirmative vote by a town majority at the Special Fall Town Meeting is not a binding resolution.

“Town Meeting cannot overturn the decision of the Board of Selectmen. This is what the town elects [us] to do. It is important for people to be heard and this is why we have gone forward. My colleagues and I will take it under advisement,” he said.

Pinciaro stresses that the selectmen have reached out to administrative, fiscal and legal partners to discuss the issue. He cites the cautionary advice of Merrimac’s insurance carrier that the town would be taking undue risk in keeping the road accessible. This could compromise or eliminate the insurance benefits that the town can enjoy, he said.

“The ‘Save River Road’ initiative is enacted by a group of individuals who want to use that particular roadway as their private park. We have an obligation to the property owners and to the entire town,” he said.

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