WEST STOCKBRIDGE — An agreement has been reached between two downtown businesses that have been locked in an ongoing dispute regarding road access. Trúc Orient Express Vietnamese Restaurant and the performing arts venue The Foundry have been engaged in discussion regarding access to The Foundry’s private road that connects downtown West Stockbridge to Harris Street, where Truc’s is located.
Announced last night on Facebook by Trúc Orient Express, an interim solution has been reached between the restaurant and The Foundry. The agreement, provided to The Edge by Mitchell Greenwald, an attorney representing the restaurant’s owner Trúc Nguyen, keeps access to Harris Street open through the end of October 2021.
A longer-term solution to the problem of road access still seemed nowhere in sight, however. “Both parties agree to work cooperatively to urgently demand that the Town of West Stockbridge open a public way to Harris Street,” the agreement reads. “It is not the intention of the agreement to create a final resolution of this disagreement.”
In the 1990s, a bridge that connected Harris Street to Main Street was closed to vehicular traffic, then reopened in the early 2000s as a pedestrian footbridge.
“We are essentially landlocked,” said Trúc Nguyen, proprietor of Trúc Orient Express at a June 2 Selectboard meeting. “Legally, you [the town] have crippled us.”
Beginning in 1999, the town began maintaining the private road, spending a sum of $5,400 to pave the drive according to an invoice obtained by The Edge. Since then, West Stockbridge has patched and plowed the road, but never sought an easement, a legal agreement that gives someone the right to access another’s private land.
“I have always plowed it, salted it, and patched it for 26 years,” said Curt G. Wilton, the town’s highway superintendent. “The argument is always there for assumption. Assumption, assumption.”
The dispute centered around The Foundry, a performing arts venue, closing their private road to through traffic during outdoor performances on Fridays and Saturday starting at 5 p.m. Since the drive is the only way to get to Harris Street by car, the move would have effectively cut off access to Trúc’s during the pivotal summer season. A dirt road runs behind Truc’s, but it, too, is a private drive that runs through two properties and isn’t maintained by the town.
Amy Brentano, owner of The Foundry, declined to comment for this story, but previously stated at a May 24 Selectboard meeting that the road needed to be closed to ensure the safety of her patrons and staff. “We’re trying to be responsible to our staff, our patrons, and performers … it would be dangerous if people were pulling in and parking while there are people trying to get to their seats,” she said.
“The Harris Street problem is not and was not new to us,” said Selectboard Chair Eric Shimelonis at the June 2 meeting. In the past few months, West Stockbridge has been trying to purchase land owned by National Grid that is just off Moscow Road in hopes of extending Harris Street to Moscow Road, offering a public way. According to Shimelonis, paperwork finalizing the deal is imminent. A feasibility study is ongoing to see if Harris Street can be extended as a permanent solution.
Contacted by The Edge, Brentano declined to be interviewed.