GOFFSTOWN - The zoning board last night approved a two-year extension for a special exception to allow a developer to build 76 attached single-family townhouses on a 37-acre lot off Bog Road and Mountain Road.
James Coughlin Jr., attorney and trustee for Woodland Trust, won approval for the extension despite objections from abutter Catherine Whooten, the chairman of the zoning board who recused herself from deliberating and voting on the request.
The reason for the extension, Coughlin said, is that the trust continues to seek financing for the $10 million project.
"The difficulty we've been having is to obtain adequate financing from the banks," Coughlin told the board. "These days it is getting better, but the banks are still leery."
Coughlin said he's working with another group of individuals who are self-financed, and he expects to break ground on the project perhaps as soon as this summer.
In making her objections, Whooten told the board that Coughlin's request for an extension of the special exception should be denied because - among other things - Coughlin has not provided the town with $150,000 he promised as a contribution toward a planned roundabout near the development. That roundabout, which voters approved in March, will be built at the intersection of Route 113, Route 13, Main and Pleasant streets.
"This $150,000 needs to be paid now," Whooten told the board. "It needs to be bonded; the taxpayers need to have a secure hold on that money."
But other board members disagreed, saying the $150,000 was not a condition set by the zoning board. "We shouldn't even be discussing the $150,000 because that's a planning board condition," said board member Vivian Blondeau.
The agreement with the planning board called for Coughlin to make the contribution after construction on the project begins.
One zoning board member questioned why Coughlin should have to pay that contribution if it turns out his project never comes to fruition. "I feel like he shouldn't be paying if he's not going to be introducing additional traffic" to the town, said Joseph Femino.
Whooten also objected to Coughlin's plan on the grounds that the location is not of adequate size for the intended use, saying the project received approval from state agencies based on outdated regulations.
Specifically, Whooten called for Coughlin's plan to be reviewed again by the Department of Environmental Services and that a newer, more updated wetlands survey be conducted by the state.
"Because of the size and magnitude of this development, it would be in the best interests of this board . that this application be re-reviewed by the (DES) alteration of terrain board," Whooten said. She added that water treatment plans called for in the proposal "are old and don't meet the newer requirements." She said the newest DES regulations went into effect in 2009.
Coughlin rebutted Whooten over the need for a new wetlands survey. "The wetland survey has been performed at least three times since 2005," he said, adding that the system under the current plan calls for underground tanks to treat the water before it gets released into the ground. "I think to pick and choose your words is not good," Coughlin told Whooten.
Femino said he doesn't believe Coughlin is under any obligation to do more than he's done when it comes to obtaining a special exception from the zoning board. "He seems to have all his ducks in a row," Femino firstname.lastname@example.org