The residents of the first phase of a local housing development are asking for an opportunity to connect to town water, after an engineer working for the developer lined out a plan to bring town water to the next three phases.
In the April 5 Planning Board meeting the board heard from Jason Lopez, an engineer representing Chinburg Builders, on the next three phases of Lorden Commons, a proposed 83-lot “conservation subdivision” off Old Derry Road. While Chinburg’s plan to bring town water to the next three phrases met with general approval, current residents asked not to be left out.
The property is Tax Map 16, Lot 38, and is zoned AR-1. The first phase of 50 homes has been completed, with all but a handful of those homes sold and occupied.
The hearing had been postponed from the Jan. 4 meeting, in which, Lopez said, ‘There was a lot of concern about wells and water supply.” He spoke with consultants, including Stantec and Tighe-Bond, and said, “Our current plan is to monitor the wells. There is no strong model to follow. Our plan looks at the process of connection to town water if we find problems.”
But, Lopez said, this didn’t solve the question of what would happen in phases 2, 3 and if the infrastructure was built, “and then we find problems with the wells.”
One solution may be to connect to town water. Lopez said he originally explored connecting with the Manchester Water Works line, which has an opportunity for four points of connection, but he rejected that idea when one point of connection proved to be cost-prohibitive.
But a Derry water line is 1,400 feet away at the Derry town line, and includes a 12-inch water main and hydrant, Lopez said.
“We started a conversation with Derry,” he said. “We walked the route, and it seemed feasible.”
But it’s complicated, Lopez said.
Londonderry is served by Manchester Water Works, but the Lorden Commons franchise area is served by Pennichuck.
The process to hook up to Derry water would involve Pennichuck releasing its rights to Derry; Derry taking over the part of the franchise area that is in Londonderry; Derry purchasing the water from Manchester; and everything being approved by the Public Utilities Commission.
The process will involve a 12-inch water main running down Old Derry Road, with hydrants, and changing to 8 inches at Lorden Commons. It will serve Phases 2, 3 and 4, but not the 50 existing homes, Lopez said.
Derry will lead the charge, Lopez said, noting, “Ultimately, the system will be theirs.”
Lopez acknowledged that there are water issues with those 50 existing homes. He said Chinburg had submitted a survey to residents of their concerns. “We sent out an irrigation contractor and a well contractor,” he said. “We were able to correct the issues through mechanical items or education. They have been resolved.”
But residents were not so sure.
What about us?
Resident Meghan Ivey questioned the need to be “educated.” “I have been in my house for three years,” she said. “I know I have water problems. I don’t need to be educated.”
Ivey also questioned statements in earlier meetings, where she heard that “Chinburg hadn’t heard about the well issues.”
“They paid for my second well,” Ivey pointed out.
Ivey also expressed concern about blasting that Lopez had said would be necessary in the upcoming phases. “How will that not affect my water?” she asked.
“If you do blast, you need to look at the existing houses’ foundations,” she said.
Ivey said she was willing to pay for a hookup to town water, and also observed that with town water, the property values in Phases 2, 3 and 4 would be higher than hers.
Resident Mike Boyle owns two homes on Old Derry Road and said they would be affected by the blasting, because they had been affected by the blasting for Phase I. “There was considerable shaking,” he said. “There are cracks from the blasting. One of the houses is only four years old.”
Lopez and Chairman Mary Wing Soares pointed out that the state regulations for blasting have been tightened, and that a “baseline survey” was required of all homes that could be affected.
“But you have to be amenable when they knock on your door,” staff engineer John Trottier warned.
The proposed Phase II will go in 50 yards from his property line, Boyle said, adding, “I have lived here 35 years. I don’t want my life disrupted.”
Resident Charles Armstrong cited a low “quantity and quality of water” in Phase I homes. “It is barely tolerable.” With new homes going in, he said, he’s alarmed that he might have even less water. He said he had written to Paul Kerrigan, Chinburg CEO, and received no response.
“I am disappointed to hear the comments that people have been contacted and that they’re happy,” Armstrong said.
“This is important to us,” Ivey said. “It’s not fair to the first 50 residents.”
The board agreed, with member Kyle D’Urso saying, “I appreciate you looking into the water line. But the Phase I owners will be interested in public water.”
“If the issues are already there, you need to consider how to remediate them,” member Chris Davies said.
“You need to prepare yourselves with a plan on how these residents can tie in,” member Leitha Reilly said.
“Phase I is just as important as Phases 2, 3 and 4,” Soares said. “You should make an effort.”
Some abutters and affected residents expressed concern that they had not been notified of the hearing. Soares and the board voted to continue the application indefinitely, while Lopez and Chinburg work out the water issues, and to notify the abutters when a date is set.