WOBURN - The Planning Board agreed to release a local real-estate developer from an obligation to install oversized water service connections for a new two-family home by Horn Pond.
During their latest gathering in City Hall, the city officials in a divided 4-to-3 vote sanctioned the approved subdivision modification for 12 Buckman Court, where Woburn-based Nardone Property Group plans on razing a historic dwelling to construct a new duplex.
According to local attorney Joseph Tarby, representing the Olympia Avenue business, his clients recently began finalizing a construction budget for the project off Buckman Street and realized the installation of two six-inch water mains — and a fire hydrant to flush out those utility connections — were prohibitively expensive.
"The approved subdivision plan allowed for the extension of Buckman Court to provide sufficient frontage for the applicant to construct a two-family home," the Murtha Cullina lawyer reminded the planners. "When he sat down to do his construction budget, Fred and I were called in, [because they realized a requested waiver for a smaller line had been rejected in your decision].
"There are no vacant parcels beyond this property; therefore, the water main would never need to be extended to other properties," added Tarby, who also pointed out the city has since asked for the installation of a fire hydrant that was never shown on the original plans.
Local engineer Frederick Russell, who prepared the original plans showing much smaller one-inch lines, later suggested compliance with the six-inch water line mandate, besides carrying a hefty price tag, could create a potential public health hazard.
Specifically, Russell pointed out the new duplex, perched by a wooded area behind Arlington Road, was being erected on a dead-end street where future subdivisions would be impossible. As such, he contended those residing within the new residences would never need enough water at once to flush out the higher-capacity pipeline — a situation which risked the buildup of stale water with depleting chlorine levels. For that reason, the city requested the installation of a new hydrant, which in the engineer's opinion, would have to be flushed regularly in order to safeguard water quality.
The former Woburn DPW superintendent insisted two one-inch service lines, which could be tied into a larger main by Buckman Street and Buckman Court, would be more than adequate for the two housing units.
"Water quality would essentially suffer. It wouldn't get enough turnover or enough flow. So the city would have to flush a [newly proposed] hydrant pretty frequently," said Russell. "As water sits, it starts to degrade the chlorine. And there won't be enough water being [moved] to maintain [safe] chlorine residuals."
Planning Board member James Callahan, though understanding the reasons for the renewed waiver requests, reminded his colleagues that they had already discussed the smaller water connections during the original subdivision hearing back in 2018.
Given the connections were a topic of conversation, he chided the applicant for now suggesting that he was completely clueless until just now about the subdivision condition.
"So are you saying you didn't know your construction values for utilities when coming in [with requests for permits]?" challenged Callahan. "We addressed this matter at length. The water mains are at the corner of Buckman Street and Buckman Court, and you asked for a series of waivers. some passed and some didn't."
Russell later countered that his original utilty plans all showed one-inch lines. He explained that during the last evening of public hearings back in 2018 — a meeting from which Russell was not in attendance — the Planning Board mandated the larger volume connections.
Though Callahan convinced two other members to oppose the proposed modification, board veterans David Edmonds and Claudia Leis Bolgen conceded the amendment was justified in light of public safety concerns.
"The hydrant [that's now needed to flush out that six-inch line] isn't even on the plan. So technically, what we approved is a six-inch water line without a hydrant. So the decision we made wasn't the best lone," said Leis Bolgen.
"At the en of the day, what we're talking about is a public health and safety concern," Edmonds later remarked.