Private Way Maintenance/Road Repair
Have a pothole or road repair/maintenance issue?
Follow these steps:
First, establish if you live on a private or public (aka municipal) road. Determine if your road or street is a private or municipal road. (PDF) (Residents are also encouraged to look at their property deed.)
If your road is public, fill out a SeeClickFix so that you can report the matter electronically to the Department of Public Works. You are encouraged to upload photographs of potholes or necessary repairs.
If your road is a private way with public access of which some 40% roads in Gloucester fall into this category, please be aware that the issue of maintenance of private ways is governed by state law. Please first refer to Gloucester Code of Ordinances (GCO) Section 21-80(2)(e).
- Read GCO Article IV. Repair of Private Ways in its entirety (Sections 21.80-21.86). It will answer many of your questions.
- There are times that the city will do a temporary pothole repair on a private way with public access. GCO Section 21-82(a) and (b) – Temporary Repair addresses this.
- Fill out a SeeClickFix to get a determination from the Department of Public Works. Again, you are encouraged to upload photographs of potholes or necessary repairs.
For private road owners, what happens if the Department of Public Works determines your pothole or road repair/ maintenance DOES NOT meet the GCO criteria for minor road repair?
You have two choices:
- You can work with your neighbors and hire a private contractor or paving company to make repairs – either temporary filling of potholes, or long-term rebuilding of the roadway. It is suggested that you consider getting multiple bids and share the bill. There is a list of drain layers (PDF) on the Department of Public Works webpage which may be a good starting point if you need to repair culverts.
- Join with the private road abutters, review the problem, and go through the steps to petition the city to perform a "betterment paving" project. Article IV: Repair of Private Ways, section 21.80-21.86.
If you pursue option (b), the City, if approved, may organize and perform the repair/paving of your private road. Abutters will be charged a "betterment" assessment on their tax bills, over a number of years, to pay for the work.
You can view documentation that supports the steps to take described in GCO Article IV: Repair of Private Ways, section 21.80 – 21.86:
- The petition in the Repair of Private Ways forms (PDF) is referenced and required in GCO Article IV: Repair of Private Ways, section 21.80 – 21.86.
- If you and 75% of those abutting your private road decide to consider a betterment, the abutters will be charged a "betterment" assessment on their quarterly tax bills over a number of years, to be determined by the Engineering Department.
- Note from our Public Works Director to City of Gloucester residents….
"Please note that 60 percent of our roads in Gloucester are public. Having said that, our city is allocated chapter 90 funds every year from the state for the paving public roads. These chapter 90 funds typically cover paving of public roads every 40 years. The normal lifespan of a newly paved public road paving is 20 years."
Mayor Verga launched the Private Roads Working Group to explore what can be done under the City's private ways ordinance and State law to address the unique circumstances surrounding private roads. You can view their final report and recommendations here.
If our City’s Code of Ordinances states that we do not repair potholes or repairs on private ways, why does it plow most private roads? Because it is governed by the Massachusetts General Laws, Chapter 40, Sec. 6C. The Gloucester City Council in the late 1940’s, voted to adopt enabling legislation with conditions for the removal of snow and ice from the majority of such private ways.
Interested in learning about the history of the private road repairs? Mass.gov has a link to an informative report from 2011.
Do you have more questions on your private road status? Start by checking your deed or reviewing it at the Southern Essex District Registry of Deeds.
You can also read a presentation on Private Road Repair given by the Director of Public Works and General Counsel to the City Council on August 28, 2018, and a presentation by the Director of Public Works given to the City Council on March 22, 2022.
Need further assistance in understanding this ordinance or do you need help with the next step in the betterment process? Contact your Ward Councilor.