Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Houlton Story:
Can A Poor Little Road in Portland’s Wealthy West End Find Stature and Self-Realization By Laying It’s Dusty Soul Bare Before The Powers That Be In Portland’s Beaux Arts City Hall?


A couple of issues ago, we wrote about the efforts of residents of Houlton Street/Adams Court to seek improvements to the private road that unites their properties. Research into the legal aspects, and generous cooperation of officials from City departments and Councilwoman Karen Geraghty concluded that creating a public easement was, perhaps, the most viable route.

Houlton/Adams’ present status as a private way, making it legally unqualified for City maintenance and services, meant that only minimal attention, primarily in matters regarding public safety - such as maintaining access for emergency vehicles - would be forthcoming.

Barring paving by the City, the seven owners of property abutting Houlton/Adams could independently contract for improvements - at costs which could run to $10,000 or more.

The recent Houlton/Adams work by Northern Utilities to replace gas lines focused attention on the bad condition of the roadway. It was when residents approached City Hall that they learned of work restrictions on non-City streets. They also learned that Houlton Street, and its offshoot Adams Court, because of their dimensions, would not qualify as City streets. This, most importantly, had to do with width, curbing, and the need for a sidewalk. However, with City Council approval, they could be reclassified as a public easement.

It sounded good. However, the law regarding such a designation states that in the event the property owners requested maintenance or other services not covered by City ordinances, they would still have to petition the City Council, and there could be no guarantee the Council would be forthcoming. As one resident asked, “What if there was a budget crunch? Official City streets would rightfully get priority.”

The matter of parking by non-residents of the private Houlton/Adams enclave would also become a problem under the terms of an easement. There would be no public restriction, as with a private way. However, by making the two streets a separate parking zone, the property owners could receive parking stickers that would open the way for removal of out-of-zone cars. It is unlikely that such an enclave would be designated as a separate parking zone. We’ve also been told that there are perhaps 100 such places in the city.

The next step in the Houlton/Adams story, if and when neighbors decide to move ahead, would be to have a property survey done so that an easement could be properly laid out. Survey costs could run anywhere from $5,000 to $10,000. A City Council vote to accept or reject would follow.


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