By Jon Bishop
AYER -- The MBTA has rejected a revised plan submitted by landowner Phil Berry in the ongoing process to transfer land in Depot Square to the town and the MBTA.
The property would allow development of a pedestrian walkway and a vehicular turnaround at the Ayer commuter rail stop.
According to an e-mail from Town Administrator Robert Pontbriand, forwarded today to The Public Spirit by Planning Board member Jeremy Callahan, Ayer and the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority noticed that Berry "had altered the plan" from what was agreed to in September in the days leading up to a Dec. 4 Planning Board hearing. Specifically, "the location of the parcel boundary line demarcating his property from the vehicular and pedestrian access," had been changed.
On Dec. 4, the Planning Board voted to approve the plan since under the Approval Not Required process, the board had no legal reason to deny it. In his e-mail, Pontbriand said that "if the MBTA did not accept this plan, then the Planning Board would review and consider approval of a newly submitted plan."
Attorney Pastor, wrote Pontbriand, stated at the hearing that the revised plan encompassed all of the requirements of the MBTA and should not be a problem.
The MBTA said on Dec. 8 that the revised plan is unacceptable.
Pontbriand said he contacted the Ayer Board of Selectmen and other interested parties in an attempt to "convene a meeting ... to resolve this issue ASAP."
But the MBTA said such a meeting is unnecessary because Berry, and his attorney, Roy Pastor, need to submit the original plan.
According to Pontbriand, Pastor "has been copied on all communications to date" but has yet to respond.
"The concern is that until Attorney Pastor submits the plan agreed to by the MBTA to the Planning Board," Pontbriand wrote, "the transfer of this parcel cannot move forward and the project is again halted. Additionally, since this remains a matter between the MBTA and a private property owner, it remains unclear if and when Attorney Pastor (Mr. Berry) intend to submit the agreed to plan and what additional steps the MBTA may or may not take to bring this to resolution."
Pontbriand, in a conversation with The Public Spirit, said that, in the original plan, the parcel line was about 24 feet from The Medicine Shoppe to the fence, but, in the revised plan, that line was moved to almost 42 feet.
"The town remains committed to the project, as does MART and as does our state and federal delegation," he said. "We remain confident that the correct plan...will be submitted by Attorney Pastor, ultimately approved by the Planning Board, and we can move this project forward."
Pastor, who also spoke to The Public Spirit about the issue, said that there was a miscommunication at the last Planning Board meeting.
The new fence location "won't affect anything we've agreed on," he said. "There was really no material change."
The revised design allows the cars on the Berry side to maneuver around The Medicine Shoppe, he said.
What happened was that the plans presented to the Planning Board had no delineation. He's in the process of having an engineer draw up a more specific plan, which should be ready in a few days, he said.
"I'm hoping this will clear up any misunderstanding," he said.
Board of Selectman Chairman Chris Hillman said the matter is "going to be resolved one way or another."
"(The Board) is together on this," he said, adding that he hopes the project will be ready to go by next spring.