Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Foot Traffic to Ayer's MBTA Station Detoured by Property Owner's Fence

(SOURCE:  Lowell Sun)

AYER -- Riders on the commuter rail are finding a fence blocking their usual path to the rail station, after private-property owner Phil Berry erected the fence along the lines of his property in a surprise move on Sunday.

The fence, which runs along the track and makes a right angle along Archer's Mobil, redirects people to walk around the lot behind Carlin's Tavern and by the gas station to get on the commuter-rail platform.

The town did not receive official notification, according to a public advisory sent to Nashoba Publishing today by Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand.

"This appears to be a property dispute between Mr. Phil Berry and the MBTA," the statement reads. "The town of Ayer does not own any of the property in dispute."

But MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo clarified that there is no property dispute between the MBTA and Berry, who told the MBTA he has been trying to work with the town and the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority since last year, Pesaturo said.

"The MBTA will work with the town of Ayer, the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority and the property owner to identify and implement a resolution," Pesaturo said in an email.

Pesaturo said the MBTA inherited the Boston & Maine railroad right-of-way decades ago, including "deeded rights" that allow the public to walk over the property to get to the train.

Commuters can typically access the train by walking across the lot Berry owns behind Carlin's Tavern, but the newly constructed fence forces passengers to walk on the outskirts of his property along the gas station.

The town is in consultation with the MBTA and MART over the matter, according to the statement from Pontbriand, but it has no legal jurisdiction over Berry's property or the platform and property owned by the MBTA.

"The town of Ayer will respond to public safety/health emergencies at the train-station platform only," the statement reads.

When reached by phone on Sunday, Berry offered no comment and hung up.

Bruno Fisher, deputy administrator for MART, said the MBTA, MART and the town have been working with Berry on establishing safe access to the station for about a year.

The town received $3.2 million in October for the expansion of the Rail Trail parking lot, but Fisher said one stipulation requires clear access to the station.

Fisher said MART does not have a preference on station access, but is leaving it up to the wishes of the MBTA and the Federal Transit Administration, which approved the grant.

But some parcels along Park Street must be sold before the project comes to fruition, Nashoba Publishing reported in October. Berry also owns property on Park Street.

The dispute, Fisher said, is really between the MBTA and Berry, as the MBTA has the easement allowing commuters to walk across Berry's property.

"I gather it's his contention that he owns the property," Fisher said.

"He's going to apparently try to dictate the pathway that he wants to have used out there for the commuter rail patrons that use that specific station."

Standing near the fence early Monday morning, Police Chief William Murray said police are not making any changes to their regular game plan, noting that their issue is only getting people across the street safely.

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