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Legal wrangling seems at an end

By Pierre Comtois


GROTON — After years of legal wrangling it seems as if the town and the developer of the Groton Residential Gardens housing project finally buried the hatchet last week when members of the Zoning Board of Appeal voted to approve changes in the subdivision’s drainage system.

It began in 2004 when the ZBA awarded developer Robert Walker a comprehensive permit to build a 44-unit housing project at the intersection of Main and Mill streets.

Earlier, Walker had completed construction of the Mill Run commercial plaza across the street and tied in its drainage system with that of Residential Gardens.

From the beginning, the twin projects were plagued with problems. Drainage at one point caused flooding in the neighborhood, including private property adjacent to Residential Gardens.

Consequently, in fall, 2005, the Planning Board sent a letter to Walker informing him that the flooding was “causing a public health and safety problem” and that the board had voted to require that the developer submit a site-plan modification for Mill Run Plaza that would show a redesign of the site’s drainage system.

Siding with the Planning Board, the ZBA followed suit, requiring Walker make changes to his design plan aimed at improving drainage at the Residential Gardens site. Refusing, the developer appealed the decision to the Massachusetts Housing Appeals Committee which found in his favor, striking key provisions of the modification demand.

Not ready to call it quits, the Board of Selectmen entered the fray by appealing the HAC decision to the Superior Court. A year later, the court reversed the HAC decision, stating that its findings were improper and remanded the situation back for further review and correction.

That was when the town and Walker had had enough and asked the court to hold off further proceedings.

It seems that in the years the issue was working its way through the appeals system, under the original plans detailed in his comprehensive permit, Walker had completed construction of Residential Gardens, including the changes in its drainage system requested by the Planning Board.

As a result, modification of the developer’s comprehensive permit as requested by the Planning Board was no longer necessary.

Walker and the town agreed to put an end to their legal jousting in the state court system. Part of that agreement included a vote by the ZBA approving the modification to Walker’s comprehensive permit allowing for the changes in the original plans.

Walker and the town also agreed that the 2007 Superior Court decision was to be the final word on the case and that town officials will be allowed access to the Residential Gardens property to maintain parts of the drainage system.

At their meeting Aug. 3, ZBA members voted unanimously in favor of the modification.

With the settlement of the issue, Groton Residential Gardens, LLC has also deposited $100,000 into a special account reserved for use in the design and installation of traffic lights at the intersection of Main and Mill streets.

When asked, planning administrator Michelle Collette could not say when and if the work would be done as Main Street, being a state road, would require the permission and involvement of the state’s Highway Department before any changes could be made.

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