It was to be another night of debate and argument over the future of Dean Withrow’s plan to build a single-family home at 25 Grand View Avenue. For months, the project has been met with a considerable amount of opposition from abutters in the neighborhood in various public meetings. Their concerns range from the placement of the house, to the design of the drainage system, and property line encroachment.
But Chairman Peter Newton began the continued hearing for the project by summarizing a letter submitted by the applicant, stating that they have acquired new legal counsel and requested a continuance so the lawyer could review all of the circumstances regarding the project.
Newton made it clear that tonight’s continuance would be the last granted for the project, in an effort to push the project forward in earnest and encourage Withrow and his neighbors to come to some sort of an accord on the plan.
“I think that it’s a fair approach and that a warning like this is sufficient,” said Tom Copps.
The members of the Commission were not on the same page, as some made it clear that they were not in favor of continuing the hearing, but would rather vote for or against it.
“To me, it’s really an abuse of process. This Notice of Intent should either be withdrawn or denied. This project is different than what was originally presented in their NOI. Personally, I can’t fathom filing a Notice of Intent knowing that the abutter whose land they’d be grading on doesn’t approve.”
“I’d call for a motion from this Board tonight to approve it or deny it,” said member Ken Dawicki.
“I’m just trying to come up to speed now on the project. What I’d like to let you know now is that the first thing that has been done has been to make sure that the property my client does own is fully in compliance with the previous order of conditions,” said attorney Shepherd Johnson on behalf of Withrow.
He said that they were grateful that the Commission was allowing a full month for Johnson to review the project and promised that the Commission will have new plans to review at least five days in advance of the next continued hearing.
“We understand your time is valuable and we want to try to make this right,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd’s confidence was not shared by the Commission or abutters, who have seen almost four months of vitriolic arguments thrown back and forth from both sides of the project.
“I think they should be denied right now, based on everything they’ve done,” said Leslie Kesselie, an abutter to the project. She felt that there had been too many last-minute project plan submissions, and too many continuances on behalf of Withrow.
Russ Bailey, another abutter, shared Kesseli’s concerns about the many delays to the project.
“There’s been quite a few and now, at the end, they bring in a lawyer. It’s been months,” he said.
“They should have come in with the consent from all the abutters first. We’re being abused a little bit here, we’re being treated as if we’re moderating or facilitating an agreement between the neighbors and what we should be doing is issuing an order of conditions for the construction they’re doing now,” said Rogers. “We’re finding out that the neighbors aren’t finding out about the new plans until the day before or the night of the meeting, so we’re being used to moderate the agreement between them.”
He then made a motion to deny the continuance, which carried unanimously. Rogers then made a motion to deny the project in its entirety, but Newton allowed Shepherd more time to argue his point.
“We’ll withdraw the project without prejudice, we’ll be back before the Commission with new plans, and a chance to start over,” Shepherd said.
The Commission then held an informal discussion with attorney Robert Moore, legal counsel for the Henderson family, abutters to the Grand View Avenue project, regarding non-compliance complaints, but it was short-lived.
“There is still an open order of conditions on this, so compliance isn’t really expected,” said Dawicki.
“Unless there’s actionable items, we can’t, as a Commission, force applicants to complete construction. They can let their order of conditions expire and they can refile or apply for an extension,” Rogers said. “If they’re working towards compliance, that’s one thing.”
The Commission requested Moore submit a letter outlining their specific grievances with the non-compliance issues.
Also during the meeting, the Commission heard from engineer Steve Gioiosa on behalf of Paul and Jayne St. Pierre of 25 Main Street. The applicants would like to install a stone step pathway near their home, but would have to undertake some minor regrading around the nearby public walking and bike path in order to improve accessibility.
“Since part of the project would take place on town property, we’ve been meeting with Town Administrator Mike Gagne for how we can get that done,” Gioiosa said. The project would not negatively impact any drainage flow in the area and would be completed clear of bordering wetland systems.
Newton was concerned about the maintenance and liability aspect of the project, since most of the project would take place on town property.
“I think the liability falls with the town, ultimately,” Gioiosa said. The stone steps would need to be monitored, especially during snowstorms, and cleaned off accordingly.
“I’m worried about a member of the public taking a digger down the stairs and cracking their head open. There should be more stringent legal framework,” Newton said.
The Commission requested assurance that the town of Mattapoisett has considered the liability issue. The members also believed that since the project would take place on public land, the town needs to sign off on the Notice of Intent. Neither Gagne nor any members of the Board of Selectmen have signed the NOI, but Gagne provided a letter of support for the project.
The hearing was continued so Gioiosa could meet further with other members of the town government in order to discuss the liability aspect of the project.
In other business:
• The Commission issued a negative determination regarding a Request for Determination of Applicability filed by Pat Richards of 10 Avenue A, who would like to extend the existing porch on the dwelling.
• The Commission voted in favor of an RDA filed by Theresa Sprague of 32 Marion Road, who would like to build a shed on her property.
• The Commission voted to accept the NOI filed by William and Sophia Macropoulos of 12 Howard Beach, who would like to repair an existing concrete seawall and jetty by pouring a concrete cap over the top and sides of the structure.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Conservation Commission will be on Wednesday, November 14 at 6:30 pm at the Town Hall. The meeting has been delayed due to the Veterans Day holiday on Monday, November 12.
By Eric Tripoli