By Alex Lippa
---- — A tentative agreement between Plaistow and Atkinson officials over a layover station may be derailed.
Atkinson officials thought they had an agreement that would block extension of the Massachusetts Bay Transit Authority commuter rail and a layover station on the neighboring towns’ border.
As of last night, however, no agreement had been reached.
Plaistow and Atkinson officials traveled to Concord Monday to discuss the feasibility of the project with state Department of Transportation officials.
Plaistow leaders have long advocated for the rail extension. But, for just as long, Atkinson officials and residents have protested.
Under the proposal, an MBTA station would be built at the park-and-ride lot on Westville Road. But a small portion of the site lies in Atkinson.
Mark Sanborn, DOT’s federal liaison, said support is needed from both communities in order for a feasibility study to be conducted.
Atkinson Selectman Todd Barbera said the towns reached a verbal agreement to exclude the Westville Road site from any feasibility study.
But talks continued yesterday and last night Barbera was no longer confident.
“As of right now, there is no agreement,” he said. “We haven’t received anything from Plaistow. They are putting something together for us. The only thing that would be acceptable would be to remove the site from any study.”
He said the three-man board is unanimous in its opposition to that site.
“It really is an issue that would negatively impact hundreds of our residents,” Barbera said. “It’s been very clear the people of Atkinson don’t want this.”
Plaistow Town Manager Sean Fitzgerald said selectmen are talking it over and he would have an update soon.
Plaistow Selectman Daniel Poliquin said he expected the site would be included in the study.
“Why would you do a feasibility study and not include every parcel?” Poliquin said. “At this point in time, it wouldn’t make sense not to look at all possible sites. Atkinson is trying to stop the study. They feel once the study is done, there is no stopping this. This is a go or no go study. We may find that we don’t want to go further with the project.”
State transportation officials have approved spending $659,000 for a feasibility study.
If the two sides don’t come to an agreement, Barbera said he would put the issue out to Atkinson voters.
“That would provide the state clear indication where Atkinson stands on this,” he said.
That won’t happen in Plaistow.
Barbera said selectmen decided not to ask voters to weigh in.
But they did last year.
A citizens’ petition at Town Meeting in March asked residents whether they supported a layover station in town.
They didn’t, rejecting it 619-308. But the vote was non-binding.
In Concord Monday, Barbera shared Atkinson’s concerns, including decreases in property values, diesel emissions, proximity to a wetland and noise pollution.
Executive Councilor Christopher Sununu, whose district includes Plaistow and Atkinson, said there was no feasible way for the station to be built on the site.
“It’s just not a practical path to success,” Sununu said. “We left the meeting on Monday asking Plaistow to take it out of any potential study.”