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Town Engineer Provides Opinion on Billerica 40B, Neighbor Concerned

The following is part of a transcript from the Jan. 27, 2014 Chelmsford Board of Selectmen meeting. For the full meeting, click here. 

7:23 p.m.

Town Engineer Steve Jahnle began a drainage report of the Aspen Apartments project recently approved in Billerica, specifically the area of the project near the Chelmsford border.

Based on calculations by Billerica engineers, the drainage will be slightly less than pre-development due to new drainage improvements in the area.

Chelmsford Department of Public Works employees confirmed this, although they noted that if a specific basin was not built properly, it may cause flooding.

Jahnle said that he had spent approximately a day at Billerica Town Hall gathering information for this effort.

Board of Selectmen chairman Matt Hanson and Selectman Jim Lane thanked Jahnle for his efforts.

Bill Griffin of Bishop Street, one of the streets near the project first introduced Eagle Scout candidates and then provided his own presentation with slides near his property.

Griffin’s slides showed several pictures with 2 to 3 inches of water flowing near his property from the woods near where the Billerica development will be.

Hanson asked if there was any reason Griffin might believe the Billerica calculations might be incorrect. Griffin said that he has lived in this house all his life and he has seen many engineering challenges with his property

Griffin continued that 1 and 3 Bishop Street have lost furnaces in their basements due to water damage in the past.

He added that he is an engineer, and that if there is a problem, residents would have to live with the impacts.

Griffin said that the Billerica Zoning Board did discuss lighting, visual barriers, sound barriers or other issues before approving the project, which had returned after an earlier application several years earlier.

He said that he and his neighbors filed an appeal and that the Town of Billerica gave very little notice of the meeting and wanted the Selectmen to know this was a significant issue for his neighborhood.

Selectman George Dixon noticed that the pictures were from 2010 and asked Griffin if it was still like that, Griffin said it was several times a year and discussed the improvements again.

Dixon asked how long the appeal would take, with Griffin saying it was unclear. Hanson told Griffin that legal counsel told the Board of Selectmen that they have no legal standing to file suit against Billerica, and that all the Selectmen could likely do was send a letter.

Griffin replied to this noting he was concerned with potential damage to infrastructure in Chelmsford.

He added that the pond that would be developed only was near one building, with a hill near the building being covered with impervious surface, in the hopes that it will be drained at a controlled rate.

Jahnle said Griffin was accurate and that there have been issues in Griffin’s neighborhood, although the Department of Public Works was not aware of any recent issues.

Jahnle added that ground water was not taken into account in the calculations, only surface water.

Lane asked if there were any more recent photos and if storm drains and catch basins had been replaced more recently, with an answer by Jahnle.

Selectman Janet Askenburg asked Cohen about the town’s rights, Cohen said there were pre-existing conditions, and the only way the town and residents would have a claim that any damages would be attributable to this project.

Jahnle added that Billerica’s engineers and the engineers for the development had done all that they could to mitigate impacts and that his only concern is that the pond be built correctly.

Griffin continued, Dixon asked if there had been a peer review, with Griffin saying there had been one several years earlier during the first attempt at this project, but not this most recent application.

Cohen said that it mirrored the methadone clinic hearing in Lowell, and while Wotjas said it was not illegal, Griffin added that the Zoning Board in Billerica was new to the project and did not due their due diligence.

Hanson asked Griffin what he wanted the Selectmen to do, Griffin said that he was disappointed in the town legal counsel’s decision and he said he appreciated efforts, but said that all the money will change hands and the neighbors will have to deal with the potential nightmare.

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