Mark Hayward's City Matters: Missing easement opens protected Manchester area to development
Properly notarized and recorded, it can prove ownership to land, spell out a debt, warrant someone's arrest.
Or protect eagle perches and fish habitat.
But in city files, a key piece of paper — a conservation easement that would preserve a small natural area on the Merrimack River — is missing. To be precise, it was never properly put in place.
"Everyone agreed to the easement and handed it to the city. No one knows what happened after that," said Dean DeLaHaye, a Pointe resident who opposes the docks and found extensive references to the easement while researching the condo project's history.
The 68-unit complex was built in 2005 at the edge of the Merrimack River, almost at the mouth of Black Brook. In the western shore of the river, the mouth of Black Brook is one of the river's least developed spots. The waters are a favorite of fishermen, and bald eagles perch on nearby trees.
Lawyers drafted the easement, but an easement is a legal document that must be accepted by aldermen, signed by the mayor and recorded in the Registry of Deeds. No vote ever took place; no easement was ever recorded.
Pamela Goucher, the chief planner for the city, said the Conservation Commission should have brought the easement to the mayor and aldermen. The Conservation Commission is a volunteer board, and at the time it had no staff to take care of agendas, paperwork or follow-throughs.
Meanwhile, a former member of the Conservation Commission and outspoken advocate for the environment said she thinks the Planning Department intentionally dropped the easement.
So now, The Pointe is going forward with efforts to build docks. The president of the condo association wouldn't be interviewed.
"We really, at this particular moment, will say no comment," said Moe Morin.
In a letter I obtained, Pointe residents David and Linda Dutile complained about DeLaHaye's efforts, saying they are costing the association money and hurting condo values. "There is no upside to this negativity," the letter reads.
A wetlands permit is before the DES, where officials there say they intend to follow the original language of the recently annulled restrictive covenant. Like the easement, the covenant allowed docks only on the southern end of the Pointe property, far from the eagle perches and tributary.
"Getting up with my coffee, going on my balcony, looking at the shoreline," he said, "that's what I love about this place."
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