CONWAY — The Conway Planning Board at its Feb. 10 meeting denied an application from the developer of the Saco River Run Phase II housing project due to zoning violations from the first phase that date back to 2007 and have not been fixed, town staff said.
The applicant, Nelson-Bergman Group Inc. of Conway, filed an application for Phase II to subdivide 280 acres into 27 lots on Old Goshen Road and Pemigewasset Drive in Center Conway.
The first phase was approved in 2007 for 39 single-family lots.
Though the property card for the property lists the owner as Nelson Bergman Group, town officials say the owner is Jay Nelson, whose construction company is called Nelson Construction.
Selectmen’s representative to the planning board Steve Porter made the motion not to accept the application. It was seconded by Bill Barbin and was unanimously approved by the board, including chair Ben Colbath, vice chair Ailie Byers, secretary Sarah Frechette and members Eliza Grant and Erik Corbett.
“In my years with the board going back nearly two decades this action has never happened — but I felt it was necessary because the developer just refuses to deal with these issues, and it’s a blatant disregard of the zoning ordinance, and he has tried to circumvent it, in my opinion,” Porter explained after the meeting.
“What he does impacts his abutters as much as he impacts his property,” added Porter. “Why reward him? We could have given him conditional approval upon making sure the problems are fixed, but he has made no effort in 15 years.”
Porter praised Town Engineer Paul DegliAngeli, Town Planner Jamel Torres, Code Inspector David Pandora and Planning Assistant Holly Whitelaw for bringing the violations to the board’s attention.
DegliAngeli said should the second phase be developed, he would hate to see how a landowner would react if they did a water test well and found gasoline in the water due to the practice of storing construction vehicles on the site. Fuel barrels also are at the site, he said.
Torres said that “staff has identified a number of zoning and land use violations on this parcel of land over the past 14 years … It is staff’s position that the board should require the applicant to address the zoning.”
Violations included a camper parked and plugged in at a commercial garage/barn; large piles of sand, gravel and aggregates with no erosion and sediment control; storage of heavy equipment and of old infrastructure; large piles of stumps/tree matter; and areas where those materials have been buried.
Steve Harding of Sebago Technics of South Portland, Maine, representing the Nelson-Bergman Group, said he believed many of the complaints have been fixed.
Harding said, “We’re aware there have been issues there … It’s a situation that the code group should be addressing and the owner, he is not available at this time,” said Harding.
Asked by Colbath why the developer had not tried to fix the problems over the years, Harding said, “A number of these are erosion control, having equipment (parked there) during construction … To me it would seem these are things that could be rectified fairly easily. Whether there are misunderstandings, I don’t know … But I was hoping if you could not approve it tonight, we could talk through it, and if there were issues, we could identify them and move forward.”
DegliAngeli said he had been to the site with staff that day and had photographs that showed issues that had not been dealt with.
Shawn Bergeron of Bergeron Technical Services of Conway, representing the Saco River Homeowners Association, presented letters that included such allegations as the developer using the property as a home for his contracting business, where he “stores and maintains heavy equipment and construction materials.”
Another letter pointed out that “with Phase I not having been completed, and therefore not having been accepted by the town of Conway, the residents are not able to petition the town to take over Pemigewasset Drive.”
“If the planning board moves forward with considering this Phase II and if it were to become approved, the developer could sell this property with permits in place, move on and leave the owners association on the hook to pick up the pieces. Please don’t let this happen,” said the letter.
Colbath told Harding: “All I can ask is that you want to resubmit and be added to a future agenda.”
Harding replied, “I appreciate the board’s thoughts. … I can’t really give you a date when I will come back.”
The planning board next meets Thursday at 7 p.m. at Conway Town Hall.
Among items on the agenda is continued site-plan review of plans by Valley Spring Car Wash LLC for a 3,923-square-foot, five-bay car wash with exterior vacuum stations on White Mountain Highway just north of Conway’s Davis Park tennis courts.