May 25, 2007
Developer works with - and against - the town
GOFFSTOWN - At Monday's board of selectmen meeting, DPW director Carl Quiram came to the board with an unusual request.  Quiram asked for the board's approval to change the Requests for Proposals (RFP) for the reclamation of Mountain Road to include a pipe sleeve with the installation of one of the new bridges on that road.

Changes to RFPs are not out of the ordinary.  What was unusual about Quiram's request is that he made it on behalf of a developer who is currently suing the town.

Quiram's request is that the sleeve be installed at the expense of developer Jim Coughlin, who wants to run a sewer line to Mountain Road.  The sewer line would accommodate the future residents of a proposed development Coughlin is planning for 92
two-bedroom multi-family units on 67 acres of land owned by Peter Morgan.

Long road ahead

Coughlin wants to run the sewer line now even though his project is far from a reality.  

The proposed development is nothing new to Goffstown.  Last year, the Zoning Board of Adjustment (ZBA) denied Coughlin's request for a variance to build 92 three-bedroom multi-family units on the same parcel, having determined the project did not meet the requirements for the special exemption that the development would need. 
Those requirements, according to the town's zoning ordinance, are: - The variance will not result in the diminution in value of surrounding properties; - Granting the variance would be of benefit to the public interest; - Denial of the variance would result in unnecessary hardship to the owner seeking it; - By granting the variance, substantial justice will be done; and - The use is not contrary to the spirit of the ordinance.

The ZBA also denied Coughlin's subsequent appeal of that decision.

Then Coughlin sued the town.

That lawsuit, originally scheduled for earlier this year, will now go forward in July.  But Coughlin
wants to run the sewer line and have the bridge sleeve installed now - at his expense - even though his project is far from a reality.  Without the sleeve, Coughlin faces a dilemma: If his project eventually goes forward after the new bridge is installed, he would have to choose between waiting five years to connect to the town sewer line or use septic/leeching systems for the development.  This is because Goffstown enforces a five-year moratorium on tearing up newly reclaimed/fixed/paved roads. 

Coughlin faces a long road ahead towards seeing his development come to fruition.  The project is mired in his lawsuit against the town, and he has yet to submit his plans to the state Department of Environmental Services for approval.  

The sewer commission will hold a public hearing on the matter on May 29th.

Town departments assisting?

Interestingly, while in the midst of his lawsuit over denial of the variance for his three-bedroom units, Coughlin submitted a nearly identical plan calling for 92 two-bedroom multi-family units to Derek Horne of the town's zoning department, who accepted that application on April 10th.  

Coughlin also met with
Quiram to request that the sleeve be added to the town's bridge installation plans and, accordingly, to the RFPs for the work on Mountain Road.  Quiram told selectmen the proposed sleeve did affect the design of the bridge footings, so he had to plan for the bridge footings accordingly because, he said, "it's a very tight fit."  Quiram admitted he revised the plans while on "company" time without first discussing it with the board of selectmen.  He presented that revision at Monday's meeting. 

Selectman Nick Campasano
disagreed with the proposal to include the bridge sleeves on principle alone.  During the meeting, he stated the sleeves would increase the costs of the Mountain Road reclamation for the benefit of a developer who doesn't have a project approved yet.  Campasano also mentioned his discomfort with the idea of accepting monies from a developer prior to that developer's plans being approved by the town. 

Campasano cited a similar, past situation in Goffstown, whereby the town had received an offer by a developer to contribute towards the costs of a roundabout at the Pleasant and Main Street intersection in advance of a project that was under consideration by one of the town's other boards at the time.  That board refused to accept the developer's contribution, citing its intent not to imply that acceptance would result in any kind of approval of the project, or interference in any planning or zoning process. 

"I think this is the same situation, because no matter how you paint it, if you allow a developer to put in some infrastructure in advance of his project being approved, what are you basically saying?  'Oh, we're not going to give him any preferential treatment, but he just spent however much money putting in infrastructure?'," Campasano said.

Quiram argued that if the sleeves are not included during the installation of the bridge, the cost to Coughlin could increase ten-fold later on.  According to Quiram, Coughlin is willing to pay for the sleeve now, and has offered to put money in escrow towards that end.  

Selectman Scott Gross questioned Quiram about the overall cost increase of the bridge installation should the sleeves be included, but never really got an answer.  

"What's the difference, Carl, between having these sleeves and not having these sleeves?  How much money are we talking about?" Gross asked.

Quiram asked "For the sleeve itself?"

Gross tried to clarify his question, saying "You were planning one without a sleeve, and now you're planning one with a sleeve.  What would, roughly...give me, like, a ballpark (figure)."

Quriam responded by saying, "The sleeve, um, I'm guessing to be something like a $2,500 item."

Quiram did not provide estimates for any costs beyond the sleeve itself such as labor, prep, etc., and the cost for his own time - already expended - for altering the original bridge installation plans.

Interestingly, when asked by Campasano what he would do if another developer came along with the same request Coughlin has made, Quiram said he would not allow it.

Quiram told selectmen he wants to include the sleeve as a separate item to keep the cost down.  He said if he waited until after the bids were opened to ask for a separate price for the sleeve, the price could be as much as $25,000.   Quiram also said that by including the sleeve cost in the bid, the price would be locked in, and if the town later decides it doesn't want to install it, it wouldn't have to.

But Campasano disagreed, telling Quiram, "What I'm saying is, it doesn't need to be in the bid because we're not paying for it.  Keeping costs down for us is not an issue here because we're not paying for it."

Bids for the Mountain Road reclamation are due by June 21st. 


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