PLAISTOW — After four years of legal battles, a local developer has received approval to build a 55-and-older housing development.
The Planning Board conditionally approved The Falls at Gunstock Road, a 40-unit development, July 20. Owner Ronald Brown of Ronald Brown Investments in Haverhill took the town to court — twice, first in 2009 and again in 2011.
"The town wanted the other developments to come in and didn't want us to come in," Brown said. "We had to go to the court system to reaffirm that we had a right to develop the property."
The conflict started in 2007 when voters approved an elderly housing ordinance that allowed four large 55-plus housing projects to be built in town. But then residents became concerned that the influx of elderly would put a strain on public services and repealed the ordinance a few months later.
The projects approved in that short window were grandfathered in, including Brown's and three others, but no new developers were allowed to build elderly housing.
Town Planner Leigh Komornick said the board rejected Brown's first plan because he wanted to build 144 units.
"That number exceeded the cap set by the ordinance," Komornick said. "He was told he could build 40. He wanted the 144, so he had appealed the decision. The court ruled in the town's favor and we told him he was entitled to only 40 units."
Then, Komornick said, Brown waited until 2010 to file his final application.
"The Planning Board was happy to see his project get done and approved, but we thought that, given the fact the ordinance was repealed, he was taking too long to file his final plan," she said.
So, Komornick said, the board rejected his project because members thought he waited too long.
Brown went back to court and the judge ruled in his favor this time.