CHESTER – Residents of the Chester Brook Estates subdivision filled the Planning Board meeting in hopes the town would take ownership of their roads. The planning board has been busy lately with residents’ concerns over unfinished subdivisions across town and what can be done to finish them.
The multi-road subdivision at Chester Brook Estates has been beset by problems since developer Tom Kady began the project and came before the planning board numerous times since work began in the 1980s.
According to discussions at the Wednesday, June 26 meeting, Kady didn’t follow town rules when laying out the road or burying utility lines, and town efforts to remedy the situation weren’t successful. Because of those issues and the resulting liabilities, the town has refused to take ownership of the road.
Tara Verrette, resident and member of the Chester Brook Estates board, presented the neighbors’ case. The subdivision is comprised of Lady Slipper Lane, Bayberry Road and Sweet Briar Lane.
Verrette said it was reasonable for those purchasing homes during buildout to assume that the developer and the town would work together to make sure everything was done correctly and the road was eventually taken over as public. But that never occurred, and now the neighborhood is an untenable position.
“Quite frankly this neighborhood owning these roads forever is not an option,” said Verrette. She added that the Chester Brook Estates group was created to take care of the neighborhood’s small community well system for its 40 homes, not a neighborhood-owned road.
“The financial burden is unreasonable and we’re not roads experts. Please take into consideration that we pay the same tax rate as anyone else in this town but do not currently receive a tax abatement for the roads portion of our taxes,” said Verrette.
According to the planning board, the reluctance of the town to take over the road was the developer’s level of workmanship, primarily in the case of the underground water lines.
Chair Brian Sullivan said that for the town to take over the road, it must meet town standards.
Planning board member Andrew Hadik has personal experience with the project and explained how he had seen water lines buried with boulders on top of them.
There are set requirements that such work must meet, and not only was the work done at times when an inspector could be avoided, but Kady refused to provide any documentation about where the utility lines were or whether they were laid correctly.
According to Hadik, a court order forced Kady to allow test pits to be dug. Not one test pit showed work that was done legally. Some of the test pits, Hadik said, failed on every single requirement. The unknowns surrounding the utility lines had planning board members skeptical that the town would ever accept the road.
“It was reiterated all along that the town is not going to accept these roads as public roads unless we know where the utilities are. Because if anything breaks and has to be fixed, we’re not going to have the roads torn up to find where these lines cross under the road,” said Hadik, adding that there have been failures in the water lines and neighbors have gone without water previously.
Verrette said she has searched for the “as built” plans required by the town but even after contacting various individuals involved in the project, has met a brick wall. The developer cannot be found, she said.
Neighbors argued that the lines were their responsibility, not the town’s, and as such shouldn’t stand in the way of their road becoming public. “I still struggle a little bit why the town would want them (as built plans) when those pipes are ours,” said Verrette.
“Because the developer failed to do his job, why would we, the town, the rest of the people, take on that financial obligation? It becomes a dollar and cents liability,” said Sullivan.
Resident Angela Tsivolas said the issue had been ongoing for 17 years and a resolution was needed. She questioned where the town’s responsibility began and ended in a development’s creation.
Tsivolas said building inspector records were not available for the project and added that “as built” plans surely weren’t available for every development in the town’s history.
Hadik said the town tried to rectify the situation, but added that the issues aren’t as simple as they appeared.
Sullivan told the group the town was not responsible for work done on the developer’s private property, as developments are an agreement between the buyer and developer. Sullivan said the planning board sets conditions for a project but noted there weren’t always methods to enforce those conditions.
“It’s a private road. The developer owns the property, the roads, everything. He didn’t buy it from the town,” said Sullivan. Sullivan added that the planning board was not simply trying to put up roadblocks, but was bound by the rules.
Tsivolas said it wasn’t worth rehashing old issues and asked what was needed to get the road accepted. Planning coordinator Cynthia Robinson explained the process that would need to be followed. Verrette asked if the town would accept alternative documentation for the “as built” drawings required. Member Cass Buckley suggested that finding that kind of documentation was a good place to start.
Sullivan said he wasn’t familiar with what kind of documentation or testing is available for such a situation. Verrette noted the road has been maintained over the years.