CHESTER – Residents of Lincoln Lane have been struggling with an unfinished road in their new development, and met with the board of selectmen to see if there is anything the town can do to help them.
The residents, including Deborah and William Hesketh, Jonathan Horton, and Rob and Leann Russamano, had previously met with the planning board, and much of the discussion at the selectmen’s meeting Thursday, April 25, referenced what had been laid out during earlier meetings.
According to the residents, their road becomes nearly impassable during the winter because it is not finished. They said the developer and private owner, Abdallah Construction, hasn’t been responsive to their calls for help.
William Hesketh said they’d been attempting to get in contact with George Abdallah, but that those efforts haven’t been effective. “He’s a tough guy to get a hold of,” said Hesketh.
Usually roads that start out as privately held during subdivision construction are handed over to the town for public maintenance once the subdivision is complete to town standard. Lincoln Lane remains private.
Reportedly the town holds a performance bond of $7,800 of the developer’s funds to finish the road by laying a wear coat down, but the cost to do so would be more than twice that amount. Usually a planning board will hold a bond on a project to make sure that what is dictated in the subdivision approval is carried out, but often that sum is far greater than what the work would cost.
Planning board chair Brian Sullivan explained that the bond was collected years ago and in that time, inflation and regular payouts when work was completed have reduced it to the current sum.
Sullivan said the planning board is looking into ways to prevent the scenario from happening again, perhaps by tying the bond into inflation or the escalating cost of asphalt.
Meanwhile, residents are looking for help, but in large part the selectmen and planning board have told them there isn’t a whole lot they can do. Technically the developer hasn’t done anything wrong, he has just made a decision that he’ll forfeit the performance bond and keep the road private.
“We can’t force him to make it a public road,” said selectman Mike Weider.
Sullivan said he thinks the planning board was honest with residents about the scenario, even if the answer wasn’t the one they were seeking.
“The town didn’t sell you the property. We don’t like it, we live in town too, but those are the facts,” said Sullivan. “If we could help you, we would, but we really don’t have any right to do that.”
Road agent Mike Oleson said that because the residents purchased in town, are paying taxes, and as a part of their home price they paid for services, the town owed them a finished road. He suggested that with the $7,800 and some highway asphalt funds, he could finish the road. Oleson estimated the cost at about $20,000 and said that if it isn’t finished before the binder starts cracking, the cost is going to jump.
The selectmen offered to speak with their legal counsel on the issue, as they feel badly for the homeowners. Chair Steph Landau said the situation the residents found themselves in was unfair.
Selectmen said if they can take ownership of the road in some way, they could then finish it and keep the performance bond.
Weider said that when he lived in Londonderry in a development run by the same company, he experienced similar issues. Ultimately the homeowners filed suit against the developer to force him to follow through with his contractual obligations. That’s something the residents may need to do, he said.
Weider explained that it was important for residents to look at their mortgage agreements and see if they indicate whether Lincoln Lane is expected to be finished. If the mortgage does indicate that, the bank is likely to want to see that work completed.
Weider and Sullivan explained that the scenario Lincoln Lane is facing is not one the town has faced before.
While the residents at the meeting said they’d be willing to find the money to finish the road, selectman Jack Cannon advised against that move at the current juncture.
“Let us explore this first,” said Cannon, adding that the residents were already paying taxes for something they weren’t receiving and the town would put some more effort into trying to find a solution
Cannon also does not want to vilify George Abdallah, as the situation involves a business decision that was made.
Cannon and other selectmen said, however, that it wasn’t the right way to go about business.
Selectman Joe Hagan asked that if anyone from Abdallah Construction was listening to the meeting, the easiest fix would be to finish the road.
The subdivision in question was not put through most of the subdivision approval process by Abdallah Construction, but was purchased after the fact.
Representation from Abdallah Construction could not be reached for comment.