Friday, December 15, 2006
Planning Board debates details of Great Brook Estate completion
In a split decision, the Planning Board conditionally freed the last lot in the Great Brook Estates subdivision upon clarification of future road maintenance responsibilities and receipt of $70,000 to be held in escrow pending completion of the development.
The developer, Betsy Goldenberg (of Pine Brook Road), requested release of the subdivision covenant along with release of the last building lot (Map 26, Lot 18-2) in favor of a deposit of surety. The subdivision was initiated in 2000 and the access road, Great Brook Path, is on the west side of Rutland Street.
During the initial discussion Ken Fries, a homeowner in the subdivision, stated his interest: "My understanding is that we, the homeowners, are not responsible for snowplowing, cleaning of catch basins and other maintenance until the release of the last lot. I'm here to determine what my potential obligation might be." A lengthy discussion of Carlisle Planning Board Rules and Regulations (Article II Section 9A3) ensued.
Normally, private subdivision roads are maintained by a homeowners' association created by the developer. Goldenberg said, "As long as I own the last lot, I am the association trustee and I can apportion out the responsibility." Viewing a partial copy of the homeowners' association document provided by Fries, the board observed that there is some ambiguity regarding who has that responsibility once the last building lot is sold or even if the homeowners' association has any responsibility before the development is completed. Planning Board member Greg Peterson said, "There appears to be an internal inconsistency in this document."
Board member Brian Larson said, "When the last lot is sold, the developer may have no legal standing in the development." Member Peter Stuart was critical of the momentum of the board's deliberation. He said, "We don't have an acceptable release document before us. That document should be prepared by the applicant in a form acceptable to us."
Planning Administrator George Mansfield cautioned Goldenberg, "Your subdivision approval runs out in August or September, 2007. Unless an extension is requested and granted it has to be completed before then." Stuart asked, "What does that mean?" Mansfield responded, "No one wants that to happen — it would no longer be a legal subdivision — the subdivision loses access."
Peterson summarized the discussion: "What is before us is whether we accept an amount of money in place of retaining the last lot as a guarantee that the development will be completed." Speaking to Goldenberg and Fries, he said, "There is enough ambiguity here that it is in both of your interests [the developer and the homeowners' association] to get together and work out an orderly transition of responsibility." In response to questions from both Goldenberg and Fries, Peterson said, "You need a side letter, a contract that can be registered, clarifying responsibilities."
Speaking to the other board members Peterson said, "We can increase the amount of money so that we are comfortable that, even given the uncertainties, if things should go wrong the development could be completed."
A motion was made and seconded to require the amount of $70,000 to be held in escrow. Release of the lot will depend on receipt of a release document crafted by the developer and acceptable to the board. At least four board member signatures will be required. The motion passed on a simple majority vote of the five members at the meeting (three to two).
Explaining his "no" vote, Stuart said, "We are trying to jury-rig something. Whenever you do that, it will come back to bite you."
© 2006 The