LACONIA — Work on a redevelopment project in Lakeport Square accelerated Thursday, the day after a city board declined to rehear a case brought by an abutter who contends plans to put in a retaining wall 2 feet from his property violates the city’s Zoning Ordinance.
At the same time, negotiations got underway between Peter Brunette, the abutter, and a representative of developer Scott Everett in an effort to work out a settlement between the two parties, Brunette confirmed Thursday. He declined to elaborate, explaining the talks are ongoing.
A call to developer Everett seeking comment was not returned Thursday afternoon.
The Zoning Board of Adjustment voted 5-0 Wednesday not to rehear an appeal brought by Brunette, who argued that the ZBA had made three legal errors when it first denied his appeal on June 30.
Brunette’s house, at 19 Park St, is directly behind the site of the multimillion-dollar Paugus Elm project.
The vote came after board members discussed the matter among themselves for 30 minutes. No one else was allowed to speak.
The cease-work order which had blocked installation of the rear retaining wall was lifted by the city Thursday.
City Planning Director Dean Trefethen said any construction work within 5 feet of Brunette’s property line during the next month was being done at the developer’s risk, “and they understand that.”
With his request for a rehearing denied, Brunette has 30 days under the law to appeal the ZBA’s decision to Superior Court.
Brunette’s main contention was that the installation of the metal retaining wall just 2 feet from his property was a violation of the Zoning Ordinance that requires any structure must be at least 5 feet from an abutter’s property. But Trefethen ruled that the retaining wall was not a structure, but a construction technique, and therefore not subject to the setback rule.
In its decision Wednesday, the ZBA ruled that it was legally correct in upholding Trefethen’s decision that the wall was not a structure. They further concluded that the required setback from Brunette’s property was 5 feet.
In his motion for the rehearing, Brunette also asked the ZBA to consider whether the Planning Board’s decision on June 1 approving the site plan for the Paugus Elm project was proper because no retaining walls are shown on the plans submitted to the city.
The ZBA, however, declined to rule on that matter, saying it was beyond the scope of their responsibility.
Brunette has argued that he fears the technique to be used to beat 35-foot-long metal sheets into the ground could make his house structurally unsound, as well as that of the historic United Baptist Church located next door.
The city first ordered work on the project to cease on June 18 when Brunette appealed Trefethen's decision to the ZBA. Following the ZBA's ruling on June 30, the cease-work order was lifted the following day, only to be reimposed a few hours later when Brunette notified the city of his intention to seek a rehearing.
Trefethen modified the cease-work order last week to allow contractors to start working on the main building. But he left intact that part of the order prohibiting work on areas of the construction site closest to Brunette’s property. That order remained in effect until Thursday.
The rear retaining wall is being installed to keep the loose soil on the construction site in place while workers are laying the footings and foundation for the parking garage located behind the main building which will house businesses on the ground floor, and residential units on the upper two stories.