Dolan Wants More Review of Nevins Trail Removal Request

The Town Council faced a packed Moose Hill Conference Room as residents of the Nevins Retirement Cooperative made their wishes known that they do not want a walking trail around the perimeter of their development.
Attorney Morgan Hollis of the Nashua legal firm Gottesman and Hollis said that as a cooperative, Nevins has a board of directors that govern the land uses within its property.

“This matter arises out of a request by residents of the Nevins,” he told the Council on Monday night. “The Nevins is a cooperative and it’s a little bit of a different type of community from the legal structure perspective, in that the land on which the buildings are located is leased to owners who then build a home on the leased land. The land is owned in a cooperative and each homeowner owns a percentage interest in the land. In this case there are 128 homeowners.”
Hollis said when the trail was approved by the Planning Board, it was considered as adding an amenity to the development.
“During the course of the Planning Board negotiations, it was planned as a walking trail easement and it became a public trail easement, and there was indeed a walking trail easement deed provided by the developer to the town and recorded and registered as a 25-foot-wide trail easement project,” Hollis said. “So the trail was not only for the residents but for the public.”
He said the difficulty is that the trail doesn’t lead anywhere. It circles a portion of the development and in some areas crosses the street. At some points, the trail is within 4 to 20 feet of the homes, compromising the privacy of the homeowners.
“If the walking trail is to be removed, the only way to make it meaningful is to have the municipality release its rights,” Hollis said.
He said two votes of the residents were taken on whether the walking trail should stay. One vote was unanimous to remove the trail, and in the other vote, all but three persons voted to remove it. The board of directors voted to remove the walking trail.
Council Chairman John Farrell said an anonymous letter was received saying that some residents at Nevins “felt intimidated,” implying that residents who wanted the trail to stay experienced intimidation from some of the residents who wanted it to go.
“We have to take into consideration everyone’s feelings; we want to do the right thing,” Farrell said.
Several Nevins residents in attendance took exception to the alleged intimidation, and said they knew of no such incidents ever taking place.
Resident Michal Smith said abutters had come to the meetings and said they didn’t want the trail either.
But it is a public trail and the residents don’t want the public to have access to their property for safety and privacy reasons. With the trail open to the general public, the Town Council has to make a decision on whether to remove it.
Nevins resident Bill Marineau said the easement to the walking trail at one point goes through two bathrooms and a bedroom of his house.
“The easement is 25 feet wide, but the trail itself is not that wide so the trail if built would be within two feet from the side of the house,” he said.
Councilor Tom Dolan said when the development was going to be built, there was concern for its infrastructure.
“Back at the time this development was proposed, we were under extreme duress with the community’s infrastructure,” he said. “The development that was about to be built at the location that you all live now was going to be about three times the size it is now and without any age restriction. There would have been a lot of children, which would have flooded the schools, making a very bad situation even worse.”
Dolan said the council went to the developer and said the development would put the community under duress.
“How can we negotiate with you to turn the dial down on this development?” he said the Council told the developer. “Build far fewer homes and make it age restrictive so that it won’t impact the schools, and we can preserve some open space and make it environmentally friendly.”
Dolan said the developer responded that he would lose about $2.9 million. The Council then asked the developer if he would agree to build fewer homes and offer green space, if he were paid the lost funds, and he agreed.
“So we held a special election and it was so well received that 95 percent of the residents voted for it. So one of the issues we have to wrestle with is how do we avoid the bait and switch?” Dolan said.
Nevins resident Paul Murphey said there was no bait and switch issue. He said the development was smaller in size and offered open space and age restriction, so there was no impact on the schools. He emphasized the only thing that was different is that a walking trail the residents don’t want would be removed.
Hollis said there is an offer to pay the town the cost of removing the trail so the town could build it somewhere more suitable.
Dolan said he wanted to remind the residents that the trail plans were present before the homes were built, and he wanted time to look into the matter further to see if laws were broken if the developer put homes close to the trail and told prospective homeowners that the trail would not be built, as some have said.
The Council voted unanimously to continue the matter to its next meeting.

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