2017-06-16 / Front Page

Restaurant plan back before planning board

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

The plan for a new Asian restaurant at 62 Mussey Road is back before the planning board. Part of the plan includes a revegetation plan for a streambank that was illegally cleared last fall. (Michael Kelley photo) The plan for a new Asian restaurant at 62 Mussey Road is back before the planning board. Part of the plan includes a revegetation plan for a streambank that was illegally cleared last fall. (Michael Kelley photo) A clear cutting violation at a proposed restaurant site at 62 Mussey Road has forced the developer to start the review process before the planning board once again.

The revegetation plan, which will begin soon, was agreed upon by the property owner, town officials and representatives from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection.

The clearcutting, in which the property owner, James Yao, was handed a notice of violation and a stop work order, stemmed from a miscommunication between the project manager and contractor.

In September 2015, the board gave its approval to the plan, including permission to cut trees as long as they were not within 25 feet of the stream, which flows into the Nonesuch River. The cutting, however, went much further than that.

“This was a miscommunication. It is not an excuse. It’s just what happened,” said Jim Fisher, president of Northeast Civil Solution. Outside of a slight change to the parking (69 parking spaces instead of 74), the plan for the restaurant, which will include a blend of sushi, Chinese food and Korean barbecue, remains the same.

Yao was out of town when the violation occurred and was “shocked” to see what happened while he was away.

Yao said he is committed to fixing the mistake “no matter what it costs.” A splitrail fence will be placed along the stream setback to keep people out of the area.

Fisher said the new vegetation plan will “provide greater vegetation” than what was required before. During a site visit after the violation occurred, the Department of Environmental Protection determined the stream channel extended further north than expected.

“This means that revegetation also needs to extend further northward than would otherwise be required if only the wetland plain was affected,” Fisher wrote in a correspondence to Senior Planner Jay Chace.

The revegetation plan, which has been agreed upon by the property owner, the town and the Department of Environmental Protection, calls for the planting of 49 trees (hemlock, balsam fir, spruce, maple, pine and birch), 115 shrubs (winterberry, black chokeberry, red osier dogwood, Labrador tea, blueberry and hobble bush), as well as 108 herbs (bunchberry, low blueberry, creeping juniper, jack in the pulpit, blueflag iris and royal fern).

Although the plan stipulates “no further tree removal is allowed without MDEP approval,” abutters to the property say the damage has already been done.

With the trees gone, Jeremy Maston and Yordanka Demova, residents of Spring Street whose properties abut the clear cutting area, worry about privacy. Demova said despite the revegetation plan, it will be impossible to “return what was taken away.”

“It will never be what it was. We can’t do that, but we can do everything we can to minimize that impact,” planning board member Susan Auglis said.

Planning board member Nick McGee encourages the developer to connect with abutting residents and their concerns.

“It is part of being a good neighbor in a crowded area,” he said.

Planning board alternate Rachel Hendrickson wondered if additional vegetative screening on Marston and Demova’s properties, if abutters and the applicant can reach a deal, would help.

“I think that’s something we should look at and I hope the owner here tonight does too,” she said.

Another item that concerned planning board members was the 10-foot buffer between the stream and the edge of the parking lot behind the restaurant. Board members wanted to see a 25-foot setback. Fisher said he could look into it, but it might mean the parking lot would have to be reconfigured and 12 to 15 space could be lost.

This could result in a loss of upwards of 50 seats in the restaurant because number of seats and parking spaces are tied together. Standards states a restaurant needs one parking space for every four seats.

For some in the neighborhood, the issue goes well beyond the 62 Mussey Road project. Scott White, who lives on Honan Road, is concerned how much development around his house has changed the storm water flow of his neighborhood because where trees soaking up rainwater once stood now is big box stores and large parking expanses. He said when Walmart was being constructed in 2008, his basement flooded for the first time as a result.

Development of Gallery Place and the businesses around it, he said, “literally changed the water table in that area.”

It is an issue that White is at his wit’s end about.

“I don’t blame these people. It’s a culmination of people filling in the land in this area. If my basement floods again, I’ll have no choice but to speak with an attorney. I am so fed up,” said White, who would like to pass the house, which his parents purchased in 1950, on to his daughter.

Chace said the developments that have been constructed, including Gallery Place, have been built in accordance to storm water plans that were approved by the Department of Environmental Protection.

Chace said it would be unfair “to use this small site to solve issues from developments that were developed in accordance to plans that were rigorously reviewed.”

Planning board member Roger Beeley and other on the board said improving the stormwater runoff, especially for those downstream, is something that needs to be looked into.

“I think its pretty obvious there is an is- sue, beyond this development, that needs to be addressed here,” said planning board member Roger Beeley.

Blanchette said the town has no plans to undergo any storm water improvements in the capital improvement budget.

The Public Works department has been able to work to address some driveway/culvert flooding concerns.

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