SALEM, N.H. — Constructions at the Tuscan Village could come to a halt, if developers and the town don't reach an agreement soon.
With millions of dollars on the line, the development agreement will outline what improvements in town will be made as part of the project. So far, developers have promised at least $13 million in improvements as of Tuesday night.
“I believe we are close, but cannot comment on a duration of time as I thought we were close a few weeks ago,” Town Manager Chris Dillon wrote in an email Wednesday morning. “There is an issue we are trying to work through and I believe once we have agreed on terms with that issue, we will likely have an agreement shortly thereafter.”
Members of the Planning Board as well as the selectmen are at odds about how to approach hearing any development plans from Tuscan without the agreement in place.
The agreement, which must be confirmed by the selectmen and the town manager, has been in the works for months. It was a condition of the approval of the site’s conceptual master plan, which was approved in July 2018. The agreement was the tool developers were supposed to use to lay out how to mitigate any negative impacts in town because of the project
The Tuscan Village is a development project that is being constructed under the Large Scale Development Ordinance. Under those rules developers with over 25 acres can create multi-use spaces that incorporate residential, commercial and office space. The 170-acre project will incorporate all of those uses, according to the developer’s plans.
Tuesday night, project representative Mark Gross told the Planning Board the town would be receiving at least $13 million for infrastructure improvements, but the exact number has not been defined because the agreement has not been reached, he said. The project’s developer Joe Faro sat in the back of the room, and said it could be potentially double that, but they don’t know.
The agreement was supposed to be secured before any projects were approved by the board, according to the conceptual master plan approval. However, the board has approved two building plans in the development, the most recent approval was Tuesday night.
While the Planning Board was taking public input on the Klemm Gas Station plan, Selectmen Michael Lyons told the board, “I believe you should not grant approvals until the development agreement is approved.”
Lyons had raised concerns about Tuscan approvals at an April Board of Selectmen meeting when he made a motion to formally ask the Planning Board not to approve any more Tuscan plans until the agreement was settled. The Board of Selectmen declined to do that.
At Tuesday’s Planning Board meeting, Selectman Chair Jim Keller was the board’s representative. He recused himself from making any decision on the Klemm project because he was on the negotiation team with Tuscan.
Keller said that the negotiation was close, but no deal has been reached. He said time was needed to broker the multi-million deal that was one of the largest financial decisions for the town in years.
Lyons also said at the meeting he had not been privy to any of information about the negotiations, and he hoped that the public would get to vet the agreement before more projects were approved.
The development agreement is being negotiated with Tuscan representatives by a small group of staff from the town and Keller.
“What I don’t want is 18 people to negotiate an $18 million deal,” Keller said Tuesday night. And Keller did not want to sway the board one way or another to OK the plans or not.
Faro made a plea to the Planning Board that the deal was eminent, and he needed to get going. He said he needed the approval to get started on the 30-day appeal process, where developers have to wait on a decision before breaking ground.
“We’re not asking to go under construction, we are asking to move along,” Faro said.
The Planning Board approved the Klemm project in a 4-2 decision. Bob Gibbs and Paul Pelletier voted against the plan. Construction can start on the project after the 30-day appeal and when the agreement is reached.