The major excavation for a single-family home on Salisbury Road has drawn the ire of neighbors, and now the District Town Councilor, who questions how the work was allowed by Town officials.
Last week, residents alerted the Town Council to the work being done at 71 Salisbury Road, including a major excavation of bedrock which took several days and damaged the roots of trees and shrubs on neighboring properties.
The property was purchased in August 2015 by Eamon Fee, one of the developers of the parcel. The Town issued a building permit in August 2018 for a single-family house, which is allowed “by right,” so the project would not have to get approval from the Zoning Board of Appeals.
When the permit was issued, the developers wrote to then-Town Building Inspector Ken Thompson, who had expressed concerns about the seismic activity from excavation during the project. In the letter, Fee wrote that the excavation would not be to the street level, but would only be enough for the foundation. He also wrote that he planned to send letter to neighbors or have a community meeting to discuss the project before the work began.
Neighbors Libby Shaw and Jonathan Kresch said that the excavation has been significant, has taken several days, and that they never were contacted by the developers.
Efforts to contact the entity that owns the property, 71 Salisbury Road, LLC, have not been successful.
Assistant Town Manager Steve Magoon, who also heads the Community Development and Planning Department, wrote to the Town Council saying that he had been in touch with the developers of 71 Salisbury Road, and with his staff.
“It is unfortunate that the Builder did not follow through with his previous offer to conduct a community meeting when it became clear that many days of jackhammering would be required,” Magoon wrote. “However, I do not see a violation of the valid permit that would warrant a stop work order, or anything that would create a liability for the Town.”
Town Councilor Angeline Kounelis, in whose district the property lies, voiced her concerns and questions in a letter to Town Manager Michael Driscoll, Magoon, the Town Council, the developers and others.
She said she was bothered that the developer did not follow through with a promise to inform neighbors of the project, as well as the fact that the project had been OK’d by the Town.
“Even sadder, Watertown’s Team lacked the courtesy to inform anyone of the project’s magnitude; under the cloak of following procedure for a ‘by right’ Building Permit that does not require notification … To say that I am disappointed in the process, is an understatement.,” Kounelis said.
She also had some questions about the Town’s oversight of the project.
“What structural conditions have changed on the site to allow for negation of Mr. Thompson’s apprehensions? Who dictates that authorization for removal of centuries old bedrock, that has anchored almost 100 year old structures on Templeton Parkway, be granted without prior open dialogue with the abutters? Who is liable for monitoring the structural integrity of abutting properties during and after the construction process for stress cracks, shifting and possible soil erosion?” Kounelis wrote.
Residents have complained that the project was allowed to go on without supervision of the town, thus endangering neighboring properties, but Magoon disputed that assertion in his letter.
“The Building Inspector, Peter McLaughlin, has visited the site many times, before issuance of the permit and many times as excavation has progressed,” Magoon wrote. “There is remaining bedrock throughout the area that remains intact and stable.”
Another unfortunate part of the project, Magoon said, is the damage to trees on other properties, but some steps have been made to require the developer to remedy the situation.
“The Builder was required to hire an arborist who has visited the site and has advised the builder as to what actions should be taken to best protect the survival of the trees. He will provide a written report as to his findings to the Building Inspector,” Magoon wrote.