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Sewer Commission rejects development due to capacity

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GROTON — A decision made by members of the Sewer Commission at a Jan. 25 meeting could have a major impact on a developer’s plans to build a multi-unit residential complex off Jenkins Road.

In its unanimous three to zero vote, the commission decided the town did not have access to sufficient enough wastewater capacity to accommodate a plan by developer Robert M. Hicks Inc. to build 36 units of residential housing.

The vote came about two weeks after Hicks’ attorney, Douglas Deschenes, wrote to the Board of Selectmen (BOS) suggesting that the commission’s delay in making a decision endangered his client’s project.

“At a meeting on Dec. 1, 2005, a commitment was made by representatives of the Sewer Department to investigate what, if any, sewer capacity may be available to the project,” Deschenes wrote in a letter dated Jan. 11. “Since that time no information has been received despite a number of requests for the information. As a result, the project permitting process has been delayed for six weeks.

“Furthermore, no redesign work can begin until the sewer capacity issue is resolved which means there will be substantial further delays,” it read.

In his letter, Deschenes referred to a multi-board meeting held Dec. 1 at which Hicks proposed a change to his plan to build a single, 44-unit structure on Jenkins Road.

Instead, the developer offered to reduce the number of living units to 36 and to spread them out over 12 individual triplex townhouse style buildings. To do that, he said, connection to the town’s sewer system would be needed.

Unfortunately for Hicks, the Sewer Department’s ability to handle wastewater had already been maxed out, even taking into consideration extra capacity that will be supplied when a new wastewater treatment plant opens soon in Pepperell.

According to the Sewer Commission, all of the extra capacity made available by the expansion of Pepperell’s plant has been claimed by a long list of applications received before Hicks made his own request.

As a result, the commission could not vote in any other way than it did on Jan. 25.

With so many buildings spread out over the 9.5 acre parcel, said Deschenes, there would not be enough room left over to site a standard septic system.

For Pine Ridge Court, Hicks has applied for a comprehensive permit under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law which allows developers to circumvent some local zoning bylaws in exchange for reserving at least 25 percent of planned living units as affordable.

In other news, member Thomas Hartnett said he intended to seek election to the commission in the spring. Hartnett was appointed to take over the seat made available by former member Karl Johnson who resigned in 2005. Running in the spring, Hartnett will be seeking a full three-year term.

Also up for election is Delores Alberghini who was appointed only recently to fill the seat left open after the untimely death of Harlan Fitch. Although Alberghini was uncertain if she would run in the spring, should she do so, whoever wins would serve out the remaining 2 years of Fitch’s original three-year term.

Town election is scheduled for May 16.