WOBURN - Blocked by Eversource from pursuing a mutually-agreed upon compromise, local developer Scott Seaver now wants to push back a retaining wall at the Shannon Farm townhouse site in order to make room for sewer connections.
During a meeting last night in City Hall, members of the City Council's Special Permits Committee unofficially directed Seaver — through local attorney Joseph Tarby — to do what's necessary to breach an impasse with City Hall officials regarding the placement of a retaining wall and utility connections by the West Side development at 299 Lexington Street.
At issue is the continued objections of DPW Director Jay Duran, who is not satisfied with the newest proposed solution.
"This is the sixth meeting we've held, and we're sitting here again with nothing to do," complained Ward 2 Alderman and Special Permits Committee Chairman Richard Gately. "The best thing we can do is to keep this in committee until we see a certified plot plan signed [by everyone involved]."
No vote was taken to solidify Gately's advised course of action. Instead, right after he suggested that approach, Ward 5 Alderman Darlene Mercer-Bruen successfully made a motion to adjourn the meeting, thereby ending the discourse.
Earlier this spring, Seaver notified the city that construction workers, after conducting initial site excavation and earthworks activity at the old farm parcel, had modified plans for sewer and drainage connections at the housing project by moving them closer to a proposed retaining wall on the 21-acre parcel.
In light of those revelations, Building Commissioner Thomas Quinn subsequently ruled those design changes constitute a significant change to the special permit issued in 2017 for the 112-unit townhouse project by Grace Road and Strawberry Lane.
Last May, Tarby appeared before the full City Council to ask the Special Permits Committee to intervene in the dispute by exercising special authorities granted to the subgroup.
Particularly, under a condition included within the council's 2017 authorization, the Special Permits Committee was granted the ability to okay post-construction design changes, in the event a disagreement arose between the building department and the developer over whether a modification is "substantial".
Thus far, the aldermen have been reluctant to act on the petition in light of objections from the DPW superintendent, who has urged the Special Permits Committee to reject the request. According to Duran, the modified sewage and utility system connections have eliminated an emergency access agreed to by both sides in 2017.
He has further described a number of system flaws that create "crossing and separation issues" and likely violate engineering standards.
Duran, noting the sewer main runs right along the edge of a city easement, has argued the city — besides losing an emergency manhole access — also now has no room to bring equipment onto the site to make emergency repairs.
Last night, Gately explained that construction crews, after encountering bad soil at the farm site, apparently shifted some of the townhouse buildings on the 21-acre site. That change in turn pushed back the utility system connections, which would now run directly underneath the still unbuilt retaining wall.
"The sewer easement is 20-feet wide, but the sewer is not in the middle of it. It's right on the edge. And the sewer main from Dix Road Extension is up against the embankment. That means there's about two-feet between the sewer main, the embankment, and private property," he said.
"If you allow that wall to [be built so] close to that easement and sewer main, there's no way for any equipment to get in there without tearing down that wall," Gately further elaborated. "I say just kick that wall back. From what I understand, that's on the plan now, but Jay doesn't like that."
Last night, Tarby, appearing on behalf of Seaver, told the council his client had identified a mutually agreed upon compromise, whereby the utility connections would be placed under an electrical conduit owned by Eversource.
However, the utility company refused to sanction that alternative.
"[The DPW superintendent and City Engineer Jay Corey] wanted to see more of a direct connection. They went to see if they could put it under an electrical conduit, and Eversource said no," explained Tarby, who later this month intends to ask the full council to continue the matter until August.