EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

December 6, 2012

Plaistow puts brakes on Panera plan

By Alex Lippa

---- — PLAISTOW — The Planning Board won’t allow Panera Bread to break ground in Stateline Plaza until they figure out their plans for water and sewer.

But Charles Cleary, an attorney for property owner Northstar Centers LLC, believes it is Haverhill’s obligation to provide water and sewer, based on a previous agreement.

“No further authorization is needed from the city of Haverhill to supply water and sewer to structures existing on the New Hampshire premises,” Cleary wrote in a letter to the Planning Board.

The board had previously approved the construction, but had attached several conditions that must be met, including plans for wastewater, air quality and a driveway.

Cleary’s letter points to an agreement made in 2005 between Haverhill and Plaistow Project LLC, an affiliate of Northstar. The agreement states the project has a right to water and sewer services from Haverhill. Because of the agreement, Cleary wrote, no additional evidence is required to meet the mandated condition.

But Planning Board Chairman Steve Ranlett challenged Cleary’s assessment.

“They might have permission for water and sewer, but that isn’t for us to worry about,” Ranlett said. “We aren’t going to let them build and have Haverhill not give them water and sewage.”

Haverhill has not yet signed off on providing water and sewer for the project, because city officials are still determining whether it would make sense for them to do so.

“We don’t have a position on the situation right now,” said David Van Dam, Haverhill Mayor James Fiorentini’s chief of staff. “We have to gather all the information we are looking for before making a decision.”

Van Dam said officials are waiting to hear back from the city’s attorneys. The cost of the infrastructure and how the supply would operate are the major issues, he said.

Until the matter is settled, the Plaistow Planning Board will not get involved in discussions between Haverhill and Panera.

“We aren’t about to get into a fight with the city of Haverhill and Panera,” Ranlett said. “All we ask is wherever they decide to get water and sewage to just let us know.”

Ranlett said the board would accept a letter from the city of Haverhill, saying it would provide the water — or listen to plans from Northstar for a new water system.

Stateline Plaza already receives water and sewer service from Haverhill, but the site plan does not specifically say Haverhill will supply those services to Panera. Plaistow does not have public water or sewer services.

“There’s a long history with the site,” Planning Board member Timothy Moore said. “We had previously stipulated there could never be a restaurant where the old CVS stood because of increased water and sewer.”

CVS moved from the plaza in 2006. T-Mobile is now located on the site. A gas station was previously located on the site.

“The question is, does the requirement for Panera for water and waste increase over what was connected to it previously?” Ranlett said. “We need to know that, when it is combined with the other properties that are on the site, if it would exceed the capacity.”

If Haverhill and Northstar do not come to an agreement, the Planning Board said it was likely the situation would be settled in court.