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.
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.
Salisbury Road, Watertown