WOBURN - National Grid has finally responded to local developer Scott Seaver's pleas for the natural gas distributor to connect its infrastructure to his Village at Shannon Farm development off Lexington Street.
According to local attorney Joseph Tarby, who represents Seaver Properties', the public utility reached out to the builder at his Lexington Street headquarters in recent days to confirm gas crews will be punching his long unanswered work ticket for the 112-unit townhouse project in the city's West Side.
In light of that news, Tarby on Thursday sent a memo to the City Council that formally seeks to withdraw a request to install a far most costly propane delivery system for the housing development.
"I respectfully request that the application for an inflammable license (propane) seeking approval to install both temporary and permanent propane tanks…be given leave to be withdrawn without prejudice," the Murtha Cullina lawyer wrote in a letter delivered to City Clerk William Campbell's office yesterday.
Dating back to February, the submission package from Seaver sought to modify the 2017 special permit for the two-phase housing development to allow for the permanent underground installation of five 1,000-gallon propane tanks. The application further wanted to install six other temporary tanks, each of which would be housed at above-ground locations.
Technically, the council never had an opportunity to debate the merits of the request, as the initial public hearing on the matter last month had been immediately continued. Fire Chief Stephen Adgate, in a letter sent to the council for a related inflammable license request, had informed the aldermen that he opposed the switch to propane for the townhouses' heating needs.
Seaver is one of a number of developers in the region who have contemplated a costly switch to propane as National Grid processes an extensive backlog of service requests that piled up during a labor dispute with its unionized gas line workforce.
Though the six-month lockout with National Grid's 1,250 union members ended last January, the utility company's alleged reliance on an irregular replacement workforce hit a crisis point last October, when a gas main became over-pressurized in Woburn by Wyman Street.
The maintenance error, which happened just weeks after the Merrimac Valley was rocked by a series of explosions and structural fires from an over-pressurized line, resulted in state regulators instituting a 10-week moratorium on all non-emergency gas main work.
In the wake of that order, a number of pending construction projects across the state have been stuck in limbo as the utility company tries to process the backlog of work requests.
Earlier this winter, the City Council denied a similar request from Madison Properties to install temporary propane tank connections at the Woburn Landing site, where the inability to get National Grid to install natural gas line connections was threatening the scheduled opening of a new Chick-Fil-A restaurant.
As with the more recent filing from Seaver, the public utility, which had reportedly been unresponsive to service requests from Madison Properties, scheduled the work order shortly after the developer threatened to switch to a propane system.
In May of 2017, the City Council in a 6-to-3 vote narrowly sanctioned the original special permit for the Shannon Farm redevelopment, which was pitched by Seaver after he acquired the 46-acre agricultural site two years earlier for $8.1 million.
The project application involved use of a special section of Woburn's zoning code, adopted in the late 1990's to facilitate Winning Farm's redevelopment into housing. Under the zoning provision, those who acquire expansive land holdings in single-family zoning districts can file for a special permit to erect townhouses, but must agree in exchange to cede significant land holdings to the city for conservation uses.
In total, the city acquired 24.5 acres of land — along with attached parking rights to an 18-space lot and promised access to the Shaker Glen Conservation area — from Seaver under the development pact.
With the so-called Village at Shannon Farm proposal generating significant debate over potential impacts to city roadways and infrastructure, the council attached nearly 47 conditions to its favorable special permit decision. In total, the local builder committed to making more than $602,000 worth of off-site improvements, including traffic enhancements to the Four Corners intersection, to mitigate the project.