Montague barn rebuilding becoming contentious

The Hatchery Road barns that burned down were so close to the road that it has led to difficulties obtaining a builiding permit to rebuild them.   (Recorder/Paul Franz)

The Hatchery Road barns that burned down were so close to the road that it has led to difficulties obtaining a builiding permit to rebuild them. (Recorder/Paul Franz) Purchase photo reprints »

MONTAGUE — History, the planned vs. actual layout of a less than half-mile road and the future of a broader state-funded road and bridge repair are all at issue as a local couple look to rebuild two Hatchery Road barns lost to arson.

Robert Adams’ grown son and a friend are charged with setting fire to the barns in an escalation of a family argument last March. The centuries-old agricultural buildings, which Robert and Lisa Adams planned to use as they re-started the farm, were burned to the ground.

But their planned rebuilding is complicated by the location of the original barns, almost immediately beside the roadway. The extent of the right of way — the route and the empty road verge kept in reserve by the town, county or state owning a road — is not clear.

The Department of Transportation plans to resurface and possibly slightly widen Hatchery Road to complement a larger project, the rebuilding of adjoining Greenfield Road. That road is in exceptionally poor condition and its repair is expected to increase traffic, although all non-emergency vehicle traffic will continue to encounter a closed railroad bridge, diverting drivers along Hatchery Road. Bridge or no bridge, the route remains the shortest from the Montague City Road entrance to town to Montague Center, Lake Wyola in Shutesbury and other points south-east.

Lisa Adams told the Montague Board of Selectmen the couple is asking to rebuild the barns where they stood, pushing one back 14 feet in acknowledgement of their understanding of the setback. Adams offered photocopies of handwritten historical documents she said show that the current road is not true to two versions of its original 1759 or 1820 layout, but the layout was not redrawn and no compensation was made to landowners.

Robert Adams said they were told they could not get building permits for the barns because they are within the right of way, possibly a 66-foot right of way, but contended that is not the case.

Selectman Michael Nelson said the board had, at an earlier meeting regarding the barns, voted to petition the Franklin Regional Council of Governments to change the right of way from whatever unknown number to 50 feet, maximum. The Adams’ said the COG had not received such a petition as of that morning, and the board instructed the town administrator to report back on the question at the next meeting.

Selectman Mark Fairbrother, who has at previous meetings been supportive of the Adams’ right to rebuild as they choose, suggested the couple file a formal building permit application. Fairbrother said he doesn’t believe the building inspector is legally prevented from permitting the rebuild. “I have seen legal counsel’s opinion that that is, in fact, not the case,” Fairbrother said.

“You could formally submit a building permit for where you want to build the barns and then we could have that debate,” Fairbrother said.

At one point during the discussion, Lisa Adams requested that a different building inspector handle the permit, contending that the building inspector, town planner and town administrator have all shown ill will toward them.

The question remains unresolved.

Town Planner Walter Ramsey, contacted the following day, said he was researching whether or not a right of way change could scuttle the DOT project, which includes repairing Hatchery Road, the now dead-end portion of Greenfield Road ending in the railroad bridge and repairing the bridge for bicycle, foot and emergency vehicle traffic.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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