EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

October 11, 2013

Plaistow senior living development hits snag

State says DES approval is needed

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW — The planning of a condominium complex has been put on hold after it was improperly approved by the town.

The 34-unit, 55 and over, housing complex off Hillcrest Avenue was approved in 2011 by the Planning Board. But last month, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services alerted the town that the plan still needed its approval.

“They should have gotten that before they got through the process,” said Dick de Seve, compliance supervisor for NHDES. “It was relatively far along, but I looked into it and realized they didn’t have our approval.”

Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said despite the snag, he still expects the 23-acre project to be completed.

“The developer assured me they would go forward,” Fitzgerald said. “They have recently received preliminary approval to meet the conditions and there is every indication this will be complete.”

Last week, the Planning Board voted to send a letter of deficiency to Steve Dougherty, the developer of the project. Dougherty will have 30 days to comply with the deficiencies, or the town will issue a cease and desist order for the plan. Dougherty must fulfill water system requirements and provide NHDES with an updated dredge and fill permit.

Dougherty could not be reached for comment.

No construction has started on any of the units, but they have begun to build a road.

Selectmen Daniel Poliquin and Michelle Curran made a motion at a meeting Monday to give Dougherty a cease and desist order immediately.

“I’m not really sure why they want to go down this route (with the letter of deficiency),” Poliquin said. “Too many times I’ve seen projects go forward with issues that aren’t rectified and then future buyers or owners and the town end up paying the price. I felt it was better to do a cease and desist and take care of things quicker rather than wait 30 days.”

Planning Board chairman Steve Ranlett said the process to approving the plan started in 2007, which may have caused confusion.

“There were certain conditions that we set for them to meet but then there’s also other outstanding issues they have to meet. A couple of things kind of fell through the cracks,” he said. “By the time it came before us to sign the Mylar, we were led to believe that they were all met.”

Poliquin is also worried about why the project was approved.

“Normally the town won’t even approve the project unless state permits are in place,” Poliquin said. “It’s our duty to follow guidelines and if someone isn’t in compliance then shut them down.”

Selectman John Sherman also said the process needs to be looked at.

“These inconsistencies are a great concern to me,” Sherman said. “There should be a documented process that is always followed. Maybe with a checklist indicating each step.”

Ranlett said steps were being taken to ensure this doesn’t happen again.

“We’re putting those procedures in place,” Ranlett said. “It will indicate all conditions and requirements they will follow through with the whole planning process. That will alleviate any further delays or misinterpretations in future.”