Potholes on private road cause a stir

Staff Writer

Staff Writer

EDISON — A patchwork of potholes on one private road has caused a public stir; and officials say there is only one person who can quell the long-standing problem.

That person is the man who owns the private section of Miko Road — Ernest Fantini.

Still, officials took the matter to court because it became a nuisance, Township Attorney Louis Rainone said.

"The only thing we can do is refer the private matter to the municipal court because it has become a problem to the public," he added. "Really, since it is a private road, the owner actually is the only one who has the right to fix it. It is no different than someone’s driveway having a hole and another person taking it upon themselves to trespass and fix it. The purpose of the court appearance is to assess whether or not fines can be issued for the apparent failure to maintain what is this man’s property."

On March 17, an initial court appearance was scheduled and adjourned, Rainone said. The new date has not yet been set. Fantini’s attorney, George Stathis, Edison, was not available for comment as of press time.

The story is one which pits private and public access against one another.

Part of the road is private and another part is township property. The private portion of the road, off Old Post Road and near Ashley, is the one which is laced with the holes and at least one person living on and traversing the road has lodged a litany of complaints.

"As far as I know, it is one gentleman who has complained to the health department about the road," Rainone said. "Under township code, the health department handles property mainte­nance issues."

Township ordinances specify that owners of private roads must maintain them, including plowing snow — not the township.

What qualifies as a private road is one which is more like a driveway, with a more narrow width and inde­pendent or no drainage accommoda­tions, according to officials.

Rainone said as far he knows, though, those parameters qualifying that portion of the road as privately owned by Fantini have not prompted him to fix the street that is legally his.

Since it is a private matter, Rain­one said he did not understand why it was not resolved as a landlord-tenant dispute between the man complaining — who he said is Fantini’s tenant — and Fantini.

"I don’t know if this tenant is com­plaining to the landlord. That would seem to be the thing to do," Rainone said. "The people who have a private right to use the road are the ones who have the issue with its owner and right to complain directly to him to remedy the problem. We only got involved be­cause of the nuisance it created."

Other municipal services, such as garbage collection, afforded the people who live on the private portion of the street, but road maintenance is counted out on private drives.