LETTER: East End Resident’s Property Negatively Impacted by Excavation for Project Next Door

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Neighbors of the project at 71 Salisbury Road say the excavation has impacted their properties, and they did not receive notice.

The following statement was presented to the Watertown Town Council on Jan. 22, 2019:

My wife and I bought a small house in Watertown 8 years ago and we have begun our family there. We love being in Watertown and intend to continue as a part of the community we have found here.

In the past week a developer has begun construction on the lot abutting ours. They are constructing a spec house in place of the previous house which was razed 3 years ago when they acquired the land. This new house is to be put on the market as soon as it is completed. The developer delayed construction these years as they sought a solution to squeeze a two-family structure on the small lot but apparently decided that pursuing a special permit would invite too much push back.  

Now they have pulled a permit for construction ‘by right’ and as a first step have undertaken blasting away the large rock ledge upon which the old house was constructed. They have continued this excavation into a second week using two earth moving machines, one to blast the rock and one to scoop it into a line of waiting dump trucks, right up to the property lines on all sides. The grade has been lowered significantly across the entire parcel such that at my property line there is now a shear face of exposed soil and bedrock where the incline which used to continue from our property into theirs has been blasted away. 

As a result two mature maple trees on our property have had their roots exposed and torn away. No attempt whatsoever was made to protect these trees even though doing so would pose no impediment to the construction of the house which they have permitted. Only willful disregard for the impact on neighbors property and desire to remove as much of the existing topography as possible has led to the damaging of these trees.  

Roots of trees on properties abutting 71 Salisbury Road have been damaged by the excavation on the site.

In such a manner, this house that is to be built purely in the name of short-term profit has done harm on all sides to the abutting property of actual residents of this town. It may be ‘by right’ but what has been done to alter the existing site condition certainly seems more disruptive than what could reasonably be deemed commonplace. The permitting process seems to have been unable to account for this and unable to give neighbors fair warning or any information on the impact on our property. I feel like the town has not stood up for the interests of its citizens in this process. 

These guys will roll out of town with their sizable profit while my family is left with two formerly healthy, mature shade trees that are now certainly damaged to some extent and maybe to the point that their continued viability is in question. We are now burdened with a potentially significant expense for hiring a professional to first assess the damage done and, if need be, remove these large trees. Again this is only the case because they undertook extensive site-wide bedrock excavation without any regard for its effect on neighbors’ property. That does not seem fair to me, whether they are legally justified in doing so or not.

As a town when we talk about protecting property rights are we talking about the rights of our residents or the rights of speculative developers to do as they please?  I feel that what was presented to and approved by the town in this case did not accurately depict the scale of the actual work which is now underway.  I would hope that now that the extent of what was planned has become evident that we could expect some support from the town in seeking an equitable resolution to the fallout.

Thank you,
Jonathan Kresch
Salisbury Road, Watertown

15 thoughts on “LETTER: East End Resident’s Property Negatively Impacted by Excavation for Project Next Door

  1. Welcome to Watertown. Nobody cares about its longtime residents. Sure our homes have increased in value but where do we go? Property taxes haven’t decreased, the look of the town hasn’t improved, and our schools are a mess. What’s the upside to all this development to the people who LIVE here? I don’t see it!

    • Totally agree! Nobody cares! It’s a futile effort to bring it up to the Council or any town meeting. Absolutely nothing will change. Sadly, Watertown is not the community it used to be. Those we voted for to sit in those meetings have become so greedy that community does not matter to them any more. I’m a 49 year resident of the town and have unfortunately decided to move from my beloved town. The town is neither a community nor for the community any more.

  2. It would be helpful if the building department could explain in more detail why this occurred. They could write a letter to this newspaper. This is an opportunity for the people in charge to gain some points with transparency.

  3. Very well written along with the photo. While I have not seen this yet I do plan to look tomorrow for a better feel. Having said that, I have a feeling that the “by right” statement will be met by a “They can do it” reply by those in command.

  4. Yet another example of failure on the part of the town government to protect the well being of folks who already live here. Clearly no sensible person would argue that something like this is acceptable. Why can’t our town government protect the best interests of its citizens? It seems like failure after failure. Clearly change is needed.

  5. That green stockade fence you see in the first photo sits atop my retaining wall. On the other side of the fence sits an above ground pool with approximately 8000 gallons of water. The ledge ridge travels under the pool and under the driveway to and assumably under Templeton Pkwy. Because my driveway slopes downward from Templeton Pkwy. and because of the prevelant ledge underground most of the water after a heavy rain settles in the back yard and around the pool. There’s nowhere else for it to go.

    What really gripes me is the developer when he first purchased the property assured me that he would “terrace” the rear of his property to protect the integrity of my retaining wall and the foundation of the garage next door. This has apparently slipped his mind. He has excavated right to the wall in places and has gone beyond his property line.

    All of this was brought to the attention of the proper town authorities. Their response…..Absolutely nothing.

    I’m just hoping that the pool which has been there for 32 years doesn’t end up on Salisbury Rd.

    Harry Palmer

  6. This occured because people were paid to look the other way. Numerous properties have been built all of the town, with disregard to property rules. “Exceptions” have happened all over Watertown especially in the last 30 years. It’s who you know, not about respecting citizens of the town, Good luck, I would definitely obtain legal counsel and see them in court. The problem is the town and the developer have more money than life, and it could go on for decades with no resolution. It’s not longer about the people anymore. Look at the Federal government.

  7. Excellent letter Jonathan. I am a long time owner on Salisbury Rd and though I am delighted to see the previous eyesore of a structure gone, the current project is a dramatic undertaking which drastically alters the landscape and seriously impacts abutters like yourself. I certainly hope that the work being done now does not affect the integrity of your property in the long term.

    You are correct in stating that residents had no warning of this work by either the property’s owner, much less the town. Time and time again, Steve Magoon takes the approach that the “owner of the property” will do the right thing by the neighbors and residents. This is a naïve and foolish approach. Again, after assessing the scope of the project, Magoon’s office should have taken a more hands on approach with respect to the resident’s concerns and financial commitments to their properties. I feel like we on Salisbury Rd have been brushed aside by those whose salaries are paid by our taxes and mandated to look out for our interests.

    The interesting thing about this project is that, though there is a house plan in place, the land itself is still listed for sale. The owner, Eamon Fee, got himself into a real mess when he purchased the property thinking he could put up a high end duplex without first performing proper due diligence. Now, he is doing whatever he can to make the property presentable for building 2000 sq foot structure. Given the substantial expense invested so far, the only way a builder will make money here is by erecting a structure that will list for well in excess of $1 million.

    • There are illegal apartments all over town and work being done without permits. The town appears to look the other way. It is not just Mr. Magoon’s office. The blame is more widespread than that.

  8. Same old, same old…..
    I lived on the West dude. I got tired of asking and getting nowhere. I was coerced into selling well below value. Take a ride on Pleasant St and see what I mean. I lived on Bacon st and i’m glad I got the hell out of Watertown. Now the people on the East side can live through the hell I did!

  9. I have lived in Watertown for nearly 60 years. It’s being ruined by irresponsible overdevelopment. The town is tapped out of space but the construction continues unabated. I have watched nine single family homes in my neighborhood be demolished and replaced by enormous high end duplex condominiums with a tenth one now in process. This is all within a four square block area and this all has happened within the last five years. Homes are being constructed so large and so close together that daily sunlight into neighboring homes and yards is being blocked. Green grass is being overtaken by green moss. There are now an abundance of motor vehicles parked on the neighborhood side streets. It’s all about profit for the contractors and revenue for the town. Watertown has become in parts a cold concrete and unpleasant place to live. Sadly 36,000 people in less than four square miles is not enough and the construction goes on at an accelerating pace even at the expense of the people who have lived here.

  10. I agree with all of you that have made a statement. I will tell you that I had s difficult time getting s permit to retool and expand my driveway. This is when Nancy Scott was the head of the zoning office. Now that office is not as difficult to work with. So it all depends how the rules are enforced and who is in charged. I have lived here in Watertown since 1954. It is not a neighborhood town anymore. It is a city trying to get as much money as it can by using the land forgetting about the people that live here. Out with the old in with the new. But the new changes the landscape and the people of the neighborhood. Most residence have no compassion for the next guy. They only want what is best for them. No one helps each other anymore.
    On the other hand, I can understand why home owners are demolishing older homes and building newer and bigger ones. Just trying to get an honest person or company to do work is not easy. Every contractor is out to make as much money as they can with as little expenses, but still charges the home owner full price or they do not do a quality job. I am almost ready to leave Watertown and move out to an area that still believes in neighborhoods and care for the residents.

  11. Who are the builders?
    Between this horror story and the garage disaster on Morse St, our town is being destroyed by shady builders. Let’s get the company names out there. Reputations are worth a lot, so if these folks have not done the work that was promised, they need to be held accountable.
    Agree about the lack of enforcement from town officials as well. Many in our town government work incredibly hard towards bettering our town, but I have been less enthusiastic about the current planning department. In he previous era with Nancy Scott, there seemed to be more of a vision and far more rigorous investigation of proposed building projects.
    I am so sorry for these homeowner and others whose property and land have been seriously compromised by bad building projects. I hope that a favorable outcome can be reached for all, but you will never replace that rock hillside or the trees. Such a shame!

  12. whn I mvd fr:wat. for a few reasons I saw some of this comin’. It’s going on in brookline too. gov’t doesn’t care about it’s people! use me up & my family… The problem w/me is I lk familiar things & can’t see myslf mving to a faraway place to be there for the rest of my life but if waltham, watertown, cambridge & boston/brookline want to pay me for treating me & family wrong bk in the days whn it strtd up to present I’ll go w/the stack of $ due me.

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