SANDOWN – The fire pond on Meghan Drive, dug without appropriate permission, has again caught up with developer Bob Villella. Though Villella has said the pond is no longer his responsibility, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) states that it is and that he needs to go through the process of fixing the disturbed area and obtaining the correct permits.
On March 26, DES sent a Letter of Deficiency to Villella’s Boemark Construction Corporation, outlining what work had been done in the area and how it violated state law.
According to Frank Richardson, Senior Wetlands Inspector with DES, while an after-the-fact permit for the 5,780-square-foot fire pond was filed, it failed to note that the site on which the fire pond was dug was a vernal pool – identified as such in 2005 by a wetlands scientist, not a “poorly drained forested wetland” as indicated in the permit application.
DES denied the after-the-fact permit because of that discrepancy and because Villella “was put on notice by the planning board to obtain a wetlands permit for the fire pond multiple times.”
The letter explains that dredging wetlands without proper permitting is a violation of state law and that Villella is requested to first obtain written permission from the current landowner (something the planning board had long ago asked Villella to do) before commencing restoration work. It is requested that the standpipe on site be completely removed, along with the turnout and any riprap, and that he submit an initial monitoring report to DES within 14 days of the restoration.
The letter outlines what restoration work needs to be completed by May 26.
“Due to the size and type of wetlands violation, your prior knowledge of wetlands regulations, and your prior enforcement history with DES, DES intends to pursue further enforcement action, including but not limited to the issuance of administrative fines or referral to the New Hampshire Office of the Attorney General for imposition of civil or criminal penalties,” reads the letter.
In April of last year, despite protestations from one member of the planning board, the group voted to allow Villella to redraw lot lines in the Hillside Estates subdivision to create a sixth lot, despite the fact that no permit was sought for the fire pond in that area. Members Ed Mencis and Matt Brown, while voting to approve the request, were sure the requisite after-the-fact permits would be obtained. Also voting for approval of the April request with no strings attached was Ernie Brown. Against were Matt Russell and Steve Meisner.
At the time Matt Brown, who has since lost his place on the board in the March election, said he was not concerned “about a one time beaver pond from years ago.” Russell was the lone dissenter that night on grounds that appropriate permits for the wetlands disturbance were not filed.
The town has long had issues with Villella over wetlands issues, some of them forcing cease and desist orders on his properties.
Last year Fire chief Bill Tapley stepped up to get the pond through the right approvals, mainly, he said, because no one else was taking responsibility. But that process has since stalled because of DES’s denial due to the issues above.
Contacted by phone, Villella stated that he had received the letter from DES but had his engineer call back the agency to question why his name was even on it. Villella said he was just doing as he was told when he dug the pond, disagreed it was a vernal pool and said he was not responsible for the area any more.