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GROTON — A state court has ruled in favor of a local developer to build a 44-unit subdivision off Lowell Road.

In his Feb. 9 finding, Judge Paul Chernoff denied an appeal by the Board of Selectmen and Groton Electric Light Department (GELD) to overturn a decision by the state Housing Appeals Committee (HAC) in favor of Washington Green LLC developers.

The developer made its own appeal to the HAC after the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) denied it an application for a comprehensive permit under the state’s Chapter 40B affordable housing law.

At the time, selectmen feared for public safety at the site because of possible electromagnetic radiation from nearby power lines, the existence of a power station owned by GELD being an attraction to children, and a danger to motorists due to traffic and poor site lines along Lowell Road.

The board also worried that, should the project be built near the power lines and substation, the town could be sued if property values dropped or patterns of illness were attributed to the proximity of the power lines.

Washington Green attorney Raymond Lyons presented a study detailing the rate of electromagnetic emissions in the area of Lowell Road that found nothing out of the ordinary.

Unconvinced, the ZBA denied the developer’s application. That decision was appealed to the HAC, which found in favor of the developer. The town then took the issue to the Superior Court, which chose to uphold the earlier finding by the housing committee.

In his finding, Chernoff wrote, “There was sufficient evidence to conclude that the noise from the substation’s transformers wouldn’t create an undue disturbance to residents and that no negative effects from EMF (electromagnetic field) were proven.”

Chernoff also accepted HAC’s findings in regard to the power station and equipment being a nuisance to residents.

“HAC had sufficient evidence to conclude that the petitioners hadn’t met their ‘burden of proving that the danger inherent in the substation outweighs the regional need for affordable housing,'” he said.

He found nothing amiss with the court’s finding that there’d been no testimony substantiating claims that the presence of a substation and power lines posed a risk to residents. The court also found that a barrier surrounding the substation would be sufficient to ward off curious children.

Finally, Chernoff ordered the town to give a 10-foot easement on its property to the developer to create a clear site line for traffic. He called the sacrifice “a minimal giving up of property.”

As for the objection raised by selectmen that only a vote of town meeting could make such a grant, Chernoff called such action “not essential.”

The bottom line for the town is that in upholding the HAC’s decision in favor of the developer, Chernoff has ordered the ZBA to award Washington Green LLC a comprehensive permit that will allow the subdivision project to go forward.

“I was surprised that the court didn’t reverse the decision on the grounds of the easement,” said ZBA Chairman Robert Cadle. “It doesn’t seem to me that the HAC has the power to take the town’s land or allow an easement on the town’s land.”

Cadle said since he hasn’t read the court’s full decision, he can’t elaborate further.

As the plan stood when it first made its appeal to the HAC, Washington Green intended to construct 14 buildings on 13.5 acres. A total of 11 of the 44 units to be built will be affordable.

Two years ago, when the project was first before the ZBA, the average cost of individual units at the subdivision was expected to be about $350,000 each.

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