© The Stoneham Independent

STONEHAM, MA - With company officials unable to obtain permission to relocate utility poles, a local HVAC system manufacturer now has until 2020 to complete an expansion of its Pleasant Street operations.

During a meeting on Tuesday night in Town Hall's Hearing Room, the Board of Selectmen voted unanimously to extend out by two years Lake Industries' construction completion deadline for its plan to erect a new storage building at 22 Gould St.

However, that extension — and in fact the entire site plan approval — was granted with the caveat that the local business must obtain any needed permits from the Conservation Commission, which was apparently never consulted about the project.

Situated in the midst of a mixed-use neighborhood behind Pine Street near the center of Stoneham, Lake Industries first obtained site plan approval back in May of 2017 for the plan to erect a pre-fabricated steel building on a single-family home plot it acquired in October of 2015.

That 12,000 square foot lot is being joined with the company's main half-acre factory building at 41 Pleasant Street in order to make room for the 32-by-35 foot storage structure and parking area.

According to local attorney Steven Cicatelli, since that time, his client has struggled to obtain permits from Eversouce and Verizon to allow for the relocation of two utility poles, which must be moved before construction begins.

Based upon the plan, one of those poles, situated on Gould Street near the proposed storage lot entrance, must be moved entirely.

The second pole, which has sustained significant water damage from a series of recent flooding in the area, is showing signs that it is about to topple from the soil erosion. That utility pole sits on Pleasant Street right by the main production building.

According to the Main Street lawyer, Lake Industries, besides agreeing to move that utility company equipment, has also been in discussions with DPW managers to alleviate the flooding problem by making stormwater system improvements.

The combination of fixes, being paid for entirely by the HVAC equipment maker, is expected to vastly improve the flooding issues for the entire neighborhood, which consists of a mix of industrial businesses and residential homes.

"There are a couple of poles in front of the site on Pleasant Street. One blocks the front entrance and must be moved, and the other one has been undermined by flooding over the years. It's tilting," said Cicatelli.

"In working with the DPW, we're going to be tying into a stormwater management system. That should not only help my client, but other property owners in the area," he added.

Board of Selectman Chair Anthony Wilson questioned why such a long delay was being asked, when the original completion deadline hadn't yet expired.

In response, Cicatelli predicted it would take at least another year before Verizon even issued a permit. Eversource, though taking a while to issue its permissions, has issued that paperwork to Lake Industries.

"We don't even have permission to move the poles, so we haven't even started construction," the attorney answered. "We don't want to move that pole on Pleasant Street, because it would cut off power to the entire [area]. So it's imperative we get permission to bring in power from the back [by Gould Street]. That could take another year."

Though the Board of Selectmen lodged no major objections to the extension, there was a fair amount of discussion about whether the applicant requires an Order of Conditions from the Conservation Commission.

Ciccatelli was the first to raise that concern by acknowledging his client never filed a notice of intent with the local regulatory body, even though the edge of the project's property line is within 80-feet of the Sweetwater Brook, which is considered a resource area.

According to the local lawyer, he assumed all department heads and appropriate permitting authorities were notified about pending site plan applicantions as part of the Board of Selectmen review process, but he recently learned the Conservation Commission is not consulted.

Lake Industries now intends to approach the wetlands oversight board to see if permits are needed.

Conservation Commission Chair Ellen McBride, who attends most if not all regularly scheduled Board of Selectmen meetings, later assured the applicant that an Order of Conditions is necessary.

"I honestly thought [the project] had gotten delayed, and they hadn't gotten around to it yet," said McBride, who told Cicatelli the Conservation Commission could likely schedule a public hearing on the expansion project by the end of this month.

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