Developer asks Gilford to accept road so home buyers will come

GILFORD — Some questions about a how much road frontage is needed to make a legal building lot led to a heated exchange between a developer and town officials at the selectman's meeting Wednesday night.

Developer Howard Warren of Blue Sky Enterprises had asked the selectmen to accept a road (Rowe Farm Road) in an approved subdivision off Cotton Hill Road before any houses are built on the 13 available lots.

During his presentation, Warren told selectmen that Town Administrator Scott Dunn had told him his advice to the Selectboard would be that they don't go through the process of accepting the road until there are at least three homes are built.

The road is built and the Department of Public Works and the planning director worked closely with Blue Sky to build it so it would be easy for the town to plow and maintain.

Warren said he had applied to the town to accept the now-finished roadway as a town road, but Dunn had sent him a letter telling him accepting Howe Farm Road before any homes are built is premature and does not meet any "public need."

During the course of Warren's presentation to the board, he made several points, including that it would be impossible to sell lots because without a public road because there wouldn't be enough frontage, but ended his presentation by saying he didn't want to seem threatening but if the board didn't "take (it) right away (they're) essentially saying no to the subdivision ...we'll be forced to litigate."

Dunn exploded. "To imply that he can't sell a lot if the town doesn't take it over has no basis in fact."

"There is nothing in the law that says the town ever has to take a private road and there is no guarantee it will ever be a town road," Dunn continued.

"To threaten us with litigation, I say, 'Bring it on,'" he said.

Selectmen Gus Benavides and John O'Brien also said they interpreted Warren's statement the same way Dunn did, although Warren spent most of the rest of the presentation trying to mollify the board.

"I would say that if you want us to help you, don't even bring that word (litigation) up," Benavides said, adding selectmen hadn't discussed the road yet, that Selectman Kevin Hayes, who represents the selectmen on the Planning Board was unavailable for last Wednesday's meeting, and that selectmen will make the decision — not the town administrator.

"We make out own decisions," he said.

According to Planning Director John Ayer, who spoke on the phone yesterday but was not at Wednesday's meeting, Blue Sky Development has the frontage it needs to sell the lots because the definition of frontage is the length of road bordering a right-of-way and has nothing to do with being public or private.

Dunn's recommendation was made in light of the fact that it is close to winter and he doesn't want to spend town resources plowing a road with no homes.

Warren said it is much easier to sell a house on a public road — a statement with which everyone agrees — but said he was up against the impending winter season and would like to get a few lots sold before then so they can be planned in time for the spring building season.

He also said that it is in the town's best financial interests to get the lots sold as quickly as possible because each lot will pay a 10-percent land use change tax and it could realize as much as $140,000 sooner rather than later.

He also said it makes sense in the long run to accept the road, which is about 1,000 feet long with a cul-de-sac and driveway cuts, sooner than later so it can generate property taxes.

Warren also said that Dunn's recommendation was the result of a "new rule" but Benavides told him there is "no new rule" and that has always been entirely within the selectman's purview to make a private road public.

Benavides also wanted to know if the Planning Board "guaranteed" acceptance to which Warren said Blue Sky and the Planning Board had a "gentleman's agreement" but that nothing was ever guaranteed.

Dunn said he met privately with Warren, his business partner and wife, and Ayer on Thursday but nothing was resolved in that meeting.

Dunn reiterated yesterday that the selectmen make the decisions and he only makes recommendations.