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Canter Brook Housing Project May Face ZBA

State environmental agency does not appear to approve concrete pavers as impervious surface.

The Canter Brook senior housing project may have to be approved by the Zoning Board of Appeals after all.

The project that would build 43 residences for people at least 55-years-old on the site of the current is still seeking a special permit from the Planning Board. It was thought that the project might avoid having to go to the ZBA.

But during a two-and-a-half hour meeting Tuesday night, the Planning Board's engineering consultant, Bob Puff, and the town's Building Inspector Charles Brett, said they do not believe that the project's plans to use an extensive amount of impervious concrete pavers will prevent it from having to go before the ZBA.

The project cannot have more than 15 percent of the land surface covered with impervious materials, unless it wins another special permit from the ZBA.

By planning to use the concrete pavers on roadways, sidewalks, around the pool and in parking areas, the project designers argued that it was now below the 15 percent threshold.

Puff pointed out that the state Department of Environmental Protection does not designate the concrete pavers as impervious surfaces. The DEP confirmed that opinion in a letter.

Brett said that given the DEP letter he would have to recommend that the project go to the ZBA. But he left the issue open at the end of the meeting.

Two Planning Board members also said they did not like using the pavers as road materials. The Planning Board took no action on the issue, postponing the paver issue until its next meeting on Jan. 10.

The project developer, Jerry Dawson, has wanted to avoid going to the ZBA.

Bob Forbes with Prime Engineering, who works for the project developer, said the reason was that “It could significantly change the project if the ZBA does not allow the large impervious surface.”

About two dozen neighbors of the project attended the Planning Board meeting. John Hamilton, an attorney for the neighbors, presented six points of opposition to approving the project.

In addition to opposing the pavers, Hamilton and Alice Maciejowski, a neighbor, told the board that the project would be too dense for the site. The project calls for eight housing units per acre, which they said was eight times more dense than Hamilton allows.

Maciejowski urged the boards “to heed the warning signs.” She said the board should wait for another project proposed for this land that does not have so many problems, would be better suited to this site and would have a better developer.

The neighbors believe that this project, as one neighbor said, “is too much for a small piece of land.”

Both sides indicated they expect this project to wind up in Land Court.

The board also heard arguments about whether there is enough water from the town wells to supply a large housing project.

Kerry Mackin, executive director of the Ipswich River Watershed Association, told the planning board that Idlewild Brook is one of the most stressed and over-used waterways in the state. In most months of the year, it flows well below other waterways. She believes it is because of over-pumping by Hamilton residents.

Board chairman Peter Clark said the town disagrees. As outlined in a lengthy letter from town counsel Donna Brewer, the issue of how much water Hamilton can take from the wells is the subject of a complex lawsuit. Hamilton maintains that the amount of water it takes each year is well below what it is permitted to take.

“We have been told that there is no (water) constraints on this project or other projects,” Clark said.

Mackin said it would be risky for the town to rely on the belief that it has an ample water supply.

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