HAVERHILL — City Council reversed course last night and approved a developer’s plan to build a home on Amesbury Road across from the city’s main water supply.
Two weeks ago, the council rejected John Giordano’s proposal to build a single-family home and garage across from Kenoza Lake due to concerns about the project’s impact on the reservoir. Councilors rejected the project after setting 24 conditions aimed at protecting the water supply, including that Giordano not be allowed to install a private septic system on the property.
The council denied Giordano’s application for a special permit for the first time in 2011, but a Land Court judge recently ordered the city to reconsider the proposal. Giordano needs permission from the council because his four-acre property at 90 Amesbury Road is within 500 feet of the lake.
Councilors who changed their vote last night said granting the permit is the best way to convince the judge overseeing the case to impose the city’s conditions. By rejecting it, they said they feared the judge would give Giordano’s his permit without any conditions.
“We could end up with zero conditions if we lose in court,” Councilor William Ryan said. “We have little or no chance of defeating this just because it’s going to obstruct views of a beautiful area. But we’ll regret it if we vote it down and we’re overruled in Land Court with no restrictions. ...Hopefully people in the community will see that we have little alternative.”
Though the council approved Giordano’s permit, City Solicitor William Cox said the judge still might not impose all the city’s conditions.
The city’s Conservation Commission recently endorsed the project, but only after an expert hired by Giordano testified that neither ground water nor surface water from the property could reach the reservoir. The expert said water from Giordano’s land, in most instances, flows away from the reservoir and toward nearby Tilton Swamp.
Giordano has said he is considering a separate lawsuit against the city for illegally denying him the right to develop his land. He said he has been trying to develop the property for more than five years and that the city has fought him “every step of the way.”
According to city tax records, Giordano bought the property in 2006 for $7,500. He said he has spent about $150,000 in legal fees and other expenses trying to develop it.
If he prevails, Giordano said he intends live in the home he wants to build. His proposal also includes a second smaller building that Giordano said he would likely use as a garage. He also said he might keep a horse on the property.
Council President Robert Scatamacchia said Giordano still needs approval from the Conservation Commission and a building permit before he can be begin construction.
“It’s a long process and there’s still a ways to go,” Scatamacchia said.