Mark Hayward's City Matters: It's developer vs. landowners on Manchester's Hobart Street
Whenever the market picks up, whenever real estate developers feel they can turn a dime, they eye Hobart Street.
The third time proved to be the charm. With a slimmed down plan, Auburn developer Elmer Pease gained approvals from Manchester for nine homes expected to sell for $229,900 to $259,900.
"We feel like we're a victim here of big money interest. We have no say," said Don Boucher, whose backyard borders the development area. "I strongly feel they (the city) won't give us the time of day. It's all about the builders."
Pease said he has done everything he can to make the neighbors happy, short of going away. His design for two culs-de-sac means blasting will take place for only three days. The deepest blast will be for a 5-foot trench, he said, although he didn't rule out the need to blast a granite pod to complete a foundation.
Pease has said he will guarantee a no-cut buffer around neighboring properties. He dismisses the idea that the land was promised as a buffer for Villa Crest. No property or city records make mention of the buffer, he said.
Neighbors say they don't have anything to prove that's the case. Bill Ready, who also lives on Hobart Street, said nine years ago he saw a letter attesting to the buffer in city files.
To be sure, this is not an ideal piece of property for homes. Granite ledge pops out in one area. Portions of the backside have a 10-foot embankment leading up to Villa Crest. And the road to the homes will have a steep pitch.
"As I said many times on the board, we're a city. We're not Deerfield or Candia," said Kevin McCue, a planning board member who was chairman in 2007 when an earlier plan was rejected.
Meanwhile, Ready said neighbors will speak to a lawyer to determine their next move. He said they could stop the whole project by parking trucks on both sides of the narrow street, preventing heavy equipment from reaching the site.
"The market plays a big role," he said. "We hope to have a builder in place to start this fall."
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