Mashpee Planners Name Carter Lane, Settling Years Of Controversy
By: Brian Kehrl
A short, partially paved driveway off Jackbon Road that has become the source of sharp debate in town now has a name, courtesy of a vote by the Mashpee Planning Board on Wednesday evening.
The planning board held a brief public hearing and approved the naming of Carter Road, a previously “undefined private way” that provides the access to the home of Brent E. McFarland off Jackbon Road.
“That was our first win,” Mr. McFarland said after the hearing.
Catherine E. Gill, Mr. McFarland’s 39-year-old fiancee, died in early September after choking on a marshmallow while at the home.
The planning board’s hearing came in response to a request from Town Clerk Deborah F. Dami in an October 27 memorandum to the planning board. “As you are aware there is an immediate need to identify a parcel of land that is landlocked with a street name. The deeds reflect this easement as Carter Lane,” Ms. Dami wrote.
The hearing, which town officials expected would attract attention from television news stations from around the region because of Mr. McFarland’s statement during the public comment portion of a Mashpee Board of Selectmen’s meeting last month, was somewhat anticlimactic.
Mr. McFarland offered the only comments to the board. “My fiancée died there,” he said. “The fire department couldn’t reach it, because they had their addresses all skewed on their computers...I would really appreciate it if you could get this settled.”
The owners of the only other home on what is now Carter Lane, Michael W. Hope and Robin J. McGuire, were not in attendance.
Planning board members had no discussion of the issue before a unanimous vote to approve the new name.
Mr. McFarland’s address to date was listed as 52 Jackbon Road, despite his property having no road frontage on the short residential street off Mashpee Neck Road.
Mr. McFarland said the new street sign identifying Carter Lane has been ordered, and the town would be paying for and installing it.
Town Manager Joyce M. Mason, however, said the town would be charging Mr. McFarland and Mr. Hope for the cost of purchasing the sign. According to town policy, the responsibility for signs on all private roads, or roads not owned and maintained by the town, falls on the property owners.
Ms. Dami will also assist in alerting billing agencies about the change in the homeowners’ addresses.
The road name issue is a key component to the town’s culpability in the incident. Mr. McFarland has accused the town of illegally changing the name of his road, which he claims, in turn, caused confusion about the location of his property and delayed the arrival of emergency responders.
Town Planner F. Thomas Fudala, however, said this week that while it is referenced in several deeds, the driveway was never “laid out” as a legal road or easement, nor was it ever brought to the planning board to be named.
Deeds for properties in the area dating back to 1961, when the property was transferred from Leo C. Houston to Dr. J. Edgar Carter, identify the western boundary: “as a lot of land in a section known as Mashpee Neck located on the corner of Jackbon Road and a new road running parallel to Quaker Run Road (to be known as Carter Lane).”
The 1989 deed to Mr. Hope’s property uses almost identical language.
Two 1972 subdivision plans for the adjacent Dry Hollow, including one filed at the Barnstable County Registry of Deeds, include a hand-drawn road shown to provide access to Mr. McFarland’s property.
The town’s 2005 street map shows what is now Carter Lane to be named Brown’s Terrace, similar to the name of an adjacent, intersecting street.
But, Mr. Fudala said in an interview this week, Carter Lane was never legally created. “The developer who created the lots kept referring in the deeds to a road to be called Carter Lane, but he never laid out the road,” Mr. Fudala said. “So the original developer is really at fault for not creating an actual street to get to this lot.”
“It intersects with another of these private driveways called Browns Terrace. But that one is laid out in a plan. This Carter Lane never got laid out as a street, so it never got a name through the normal subdivision process.”
Laying out a road establishes legal boundaries and a right-of-way, he said. The planning board’s action this week gives the driveway a name, but does not lay out the boundaries of the road, he said.
He said the lot was created back in the 1940s or ’50s, before the town adopted a provision under state law in 1966 to control subdivisions, he said. The town planning board was established in 1959.
Mr. Fudala said there are several other, similar long private driveways in town that service a few properties but have never been legally established as streets. Peters Path, for example, a dirt driveway off Pimlico Pond Road, was recently named by the planning board, he said.
Holland Mill Road, a meandering path that crosses over conservation lane, Great Hay Road, and the Mashpee Wampanoag Tribal Council property, has never been legally laid out, but it has a name that residents have used for many years, he said.
He said Carter Lane is now similar to named roads in condominium developments.
According to Mashpee Assessor Jason R. Streebel, there are no tax bill records in the assessing department that identify Mr. McFarland’s property as 1 Carter Lane. From 1983 to 1988, the property was listed as having an address of Carter Lane, with no house number, according to Mr. Streebel. In 1988 and 1989, there is no address identified in the tax bills. In 1991 the first tax bill was issued listing the property as 52 Jackbon, according to Mr. Streebel.
Mr. Streebel said, before zoning enforcement because more strict, it was not uncommon for residents to give a name to their own driveway, even if it did not receive a formal, legal name from the planning board.
Mr. Fudala said the town did not have an addressing system until 1988. “So before that they probably just looked at the deed, and the deed said Carter Lane,” he said.
It is unclear how the address changed from Carter Lane, with no house number, to 52 Jackbon, in 1991.
More recently, however, confusion over the road name and the access to Mr. McFarland’s property was brought to the attention of town officials.
Mr. McFarland said emergency medical responders had a difficult time finding his house when a child of a previous girlfriend was having a seizure in 2004. He said he and his girlfriend raised the address issue with Ms. Dami after that incident, but nothing was done to clarify or correct it.
“They should have fixed it years ago,” Mr. McFarland said.
The address came up again this April, when the address was brought to the town’s attention due to a building permit request. Ms. Dami said she asked Mr. McFarland and Mr. Hope to change the name to Carter Lane, but Mr. Hope declined to make the change, due to the inconvenience of getting a new address.
Mr. Hope did not return a call this week seeking comment.
Mr. McFarland has said the emergency medical responders were not able to find his home, in part due to an incorrect listing of the address in town and fire department records.
According to a demonstration of the fire department’s address locater computer program, however, the property was correctly listed. Thomas Mayo, who coordinates the town GIS mapping program, this week demonstrated “Remote Access,” a program on the computers in fire department vehicles.
From a main search page, he typed “52” in on field, then only “J” into a second field, and the program immediately selected 52 Jackbon Road. The program then zoomed into a map of the neighborhood, with lines around Mr. McFarland’s property flashing to highlight the destination.
He said the program has not been changed or updated since the incident in early September.
“There is no deficiency in the GIS database,” Mr. Mayo said.
According to a statement released by selectmen and written by Town Counsel Patrick J. Costello, town officials believe the emergency responders did not have any difficulty finding the driveway. The first responders were delayed briefly by a neighbor of Mr. McFarland’s who was outside waving a flashlight, attempting to point them toward Mr. McFarland’s house.
At issue in the incident has also been the performance of the dispatcher employed by the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office, who handled Mr. McFarland’s 911-call early in the morning of September 4. Mr. McFarland informed the dispatcher that Ms. Gill was choking less than 30 seconds into the call, but the dispatcher provided no guidance to Mr. McFarland on how to perform the Heimlich maneuver or to remove the source of the choking. As Mr. McFarland is screaming for help, the dispatcher is silent during the vast majority of the more than 12-minute call.
Sheriff James M. Cummings has said the dispatcher did not follow protocol during the call. The sheriff’s office has declined to provide information, either in response to requests from news reporters or Mashpee town officials, about the employment status of the dispatcher, whether she was disciplined or is still employed by the agency.
Town officials have expressed frustration at the lack of information from the sheriff’s office. Town Manager Joyce M. Mason has requested a review of the town’s emergency dispatch options, including whether to suspend use of the regional service provided by the sheriff’s office. She said earlier this month that the results of that review will be taken into consideration when selectmen decide this spring whether to extend the town’s contract with the sheriff’s office, an agreement that expires on June 30.
Ms. Mason said this week that she has not received any additional information from the sheriff’s office regarding whether any disciplinary action was taken against the dispatcher.
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