Board split on 8-lot project

NASHUA – The planning board can’t make up its mind about a proposal to build an eight-lot subdivision on 2.3 acres in the New Searles Road neighborhood in south Nashua.

After three hours of testimony from residents opposed to the project, the board deadlocked, 4-4, and opted to table the project until June 4, after it walks the site to get a better understanding of its topography.

Chairman Ken Dufour, member Jody Wilbert, aldermanic representative Richard Larose and city engineer Steve Dookran supported the plan. Members Raymond Jurewicz, Daniel Latham, Cynthia Overby and Mike Lowe, who lives in the area, opposed it.

Under the plan by COPA Development Inc., seven new homes, priced at about $300,000 each, would be built on a new street called Kincaid Lane, according to project engineer Richard Maynard. The eighth lot would be used for drainage, which neighbors said is already a major problem in the area.

“The drainage system in this whole area is inadequate,” Lowe said. “The pipes are too small.”

But Maynard and Gerald Prunier, a lawyer for COPA, said the project complied with all city subdivision regulations and that the landowners have a right to develop their property, even if neighbors don’t like it.

“The comments of the neighbors are the same we usually hear when the last property in a neighborhood is developed,” Prunier said Friday. “The people are accustomed to seeing this land undeveloped and probably thought it would stay that way forever. But the owner has a right to develop the land within the laws of the city and the city’s zoning laws.”

The area is zoned R-9, meaning only single-family homes can be built there on lots measuring at least 9,000 square feet, or slightly less than one-quarter of an acre. All the proposed lots comply with the ordinance.

Resident Mary Ellen Martin called the lots “postage stamp” sized when compared with others in the neighborhood. Planning Board members said city aldermen are responsible for zoning and they are not about to change it anytime soon.

Lowe and about 15 residents raised the drainage issue, saying flooding has been a recurrent problem. But Maynard said his plan would reduce runoff from the COPA land by 20 percent.

Dookran, the city engineer, said Maynard’s drainage plan was acceptable for the proposed homes, but said the sloping topography of the neighborhood makes some flooding unavoidable during major storms.

Extensive engineering throughout the area would be needed to fix the problem, he said.

Maynard said some blasting would be required to make room for the new homes.

Lowe and others also said the project was simply out of character with the neighborhood. But Dufour said “character is very, very difficult to pinpoint.” And Wilbert, a lawyer, said if the board rejected the plan, the developer would likely sue the city and win in Hillsborough County Superior Court.

“We’re stuck with a plan that may not please any of us, but I believe we have to approve it or see the city sued again,” Wilbert said.

Neighbors were concerned about traffic, saying speeding is a continuing problem in the area. Inevitably, more homes would mean more traffic, they said. They were also worried about the possible loss of wildlife in neighborhood. Overby said she thought the proposed development was “overwhelming for this site.”

Wilbert said such arguments would not be “sustainable in a court of law, in my opinion.”