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Selectmen quizzed on lack of response to 40B questions


PEPPERELL — An opponent to the proposed affordable housing development off Bayberry Street has registered complaints with selectmen about an alleged lack of response from town administrator Robert Hanson.

Michael Andreason of 20 Bayberry Road, whose two-acre property lies between two proposed easements providing access to the 22-duplex development, told selectmen he “took offense” to Hanson’s apparent lack of response to his questions about town involvement.

He said the newly-formed Pepperell Natural Resources Association named him to present the group’s objections to the methodology used by MassHousing in approving the site plan for Bayberry Enterprise Realty Trust and why the town never said anything to home buyers.

“I’m not trying to cause problems. I’m new in town and I’m here representing myself,” Andreason said, “but I had to send e-mails five times over three weeks. It wasn’t just me; there were several people writing about Bayberry. “

Prior to the meeting, Andreason said he had questions about MassHousing’s alleged shortcuts and “blatant omissions” in its site approval process and the town’s alleged decision not to inform him and three other Bayberry Street residents, prior to their home purchases, that a 40B plan had been submitted.

Hanson recently sent a four-page letter of answer to Andreason, who admitted that after reading it he now understands the zoning board of appeals is the place to present his questions.

“We have no power over the ZBA. We can’t put the squeeze on them,” Selectman Lyndon Johnson said.

“Stop,” Hanson said. “On the very first exchange of mails I said you don’t understand the process. You repeatedly stated the town should pull out all the stops in the conceptual site approval process, despite the fact that the purpose of site approval is not to get into the nitty gritty but to identify issues.”

“MassHousing guidelines say it is up to your discretion to notify abutters that perhaps there is something for abutters to see,” Andreason replied. “I’m one of the 10 percent who would have (paid attention).”

“The project went through the board. A small committee of us reviewed it and it even went through the Planning Board,” Johnson said, referring to initial conceptual discussions with the proposed developers in May 2004.

“The MassHousing process cannot be the venue for a humongous effort from the town to defeat a project,” Hanson said.

Andreason replied he never got a chance to say anything about the project. “You wrote four pages to me last week. The (initial) letter to MassHousing (in October 2005) was one page.”

Hanson explained that the committees and boards that made comments on the two recent zoning board hearings were not part of the response to MassHousing’s site approval process.

“We appreciate your candor. You feel you have a statement to make and set a new process (in place),” Johnson said. “Some things at the state level can’t be changed.”

“But we the people are the state,” Andreason replied.

“We’re all learning as this goes along,” Johnson said.

Referring to Andreason’s profession as an engineer, Hanson said that unlike the engineering room’s controlled environment that leads to fixed results, the “state doesn’t work on a level playing field. This process was not designed to be warm and fuzzy,” Hanson said. “Nothing happens without a political component and one doesn’t put all the game into a preliminary battle.”

“We have many people fighting in other areas and there is money if needed,” Andreason said.

Johnson explained the town is developing an affordable housing plan. “We don’t want someone coming in and telling us what to do,” he said. “Others have and this (Bayberry) developer is working with us to try to develop the way we want.”

“In the beginning I didn’t care (about the MassHousing approval) but what got me was the shortcuts taken in between regulations,” Andreason said. “I’m an engineer and work for the federal government. If I took those steps I’d be in Leavenworth (prison).”

“I’ll apologize for the board,” Johnson said.

“My letter (to Andreason) went out in 12 working days,” Hanson said. “Two of them were admittedly my vacation days but there was a draft letter, as reviewed by counsel.”

“We were after a simple answer,” Andreason said.

“I didn’t feel it was legal and had to check,” Hanson said. “I understand your position but municipal and state government work differently.” Selectmen took Andreason’s statements under advisement.

After the meeting, Hanson said, “If we took the position to fight this in the first place and it goes through the zoning board and into appeal, our stand would appear as a disinclination to listen which greatly reduces the (town’s) credibility.”

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