Here is the latest chapter in our continuing saga in trying to get the permits for River Park. The City Engineer has finally prepared her recommendations to the City Council, which will be heard tonight at City Hall. Apart from the fact that this report was supposed to have been completed weeks ago, we were absolutely stunned to learn that the City Engineer and DPW altered the assumptions given to the outside consultant regarding water and sewer volumes without our knowledge. The Planning Board requested an outside consultant to evaluate the work that our professional engineer had produced and the staff decided to modify those projections for reasons that are unclear, but suspicious. We repeatedly asked to see the draft report and were denied; thus, it is too late to adequately prepare a rebuttal for the City Council to consider tonight.
The planning staff has ruled that our subdivision application cannot be deemed “complete” until the City Council votes to allow River Park to be connected to the City’s water and sewer systems. The conditions that the City Engineer has suggested to allow connection to the municipal systems are financially onerous, unjustified from an engineering perspective, and based on faulty assumptions generated by staff without informing the applicant. The following is a letter that we plan to introduce tonight at the City Council meeting.
It would not surprise me if the City Council takes no final action on our request, thus keeping our subdivision application in regulatory purgatory. This will continue the pattern of delays that we have experienced since June of last year. I invite you to read the letter below and to post your comments.
Lyme Properties intends to host a neighbor meeting in May, prior to the continued Planning Board hearing scheduled for May 19, to bring everyone up to date on this complex and often confusing process. The date will be determined based on what action, if any, the City Council takes tonight. Our office will be communicating with the Friends of River Park and others on a regular basis leading up to the next Planning Board hearing, and we hope you can find time to attend the status update meeting. In 40 years of real estate development, I have never experienced a permitting process so exasperating!
To the Lebanon City Council,
We were surprised and disappointed to read the City Engineer’s memorandum and the accompanying sewer and water studies conducted by Wright-Pierce.
We repeatedly requested that we be allowed to review the draft copies of these reports to ensure we understood the methodology used and that the studies utilized our proposed design parameters. However, the City Engineer refused to allow us any access to the studies we had paid for until her analysis was complete and sent to the City Council. This was an unfortunate decision, since we believe the DPW staff provided erroneous information to the review consultants.
The water study proposal forwarded to us and the Planning Board by Christina Hall, the City Engineer, reads in part as follows:
“Based on information provided to us from Holden Engineering & Surveying, we will run the hydraulic model to check for:
1. Estimated fire flows available to the subdivision.
2. Check for negative impacts to the Lebanon distribution system based on a required 100,000 GPD average flow.
3. Make recommendations on water system distribution upgrades, if required.”
However, a number of deviations from this proposal appear to have occurred.
First, the final water study report includes a significant increase in water demand over the projections our engineer provided. Specifically, the report states that the City instructed Wright-Pierce to use higher flow assumptions for office space, doubling the water/sewer flow from this use and resulting in a 50% increase in overall flow. This increase was a surprise to us, as the DPW staff never mentioned any concern with the demand calculations our engineers provided. In fact, after our engineer, Holden Engineering, produced initial flow data we wanted to verify the data and so commissioned a second engineering firm, AHA Consulting Engineers to review the initially flows estimates. The revised flows based upon the AHA review were submitted to the Ms. Hall on September 23, 2010. We would like an explanation of why the City required Wright-Pierce to include this increase and why it was made without at least discussing the situation with us.
Second, the final Wright-Pierce water report also includes an additional scope item beyond the scope presented to us and approved by the Planning Board. The additional scope item is: “Determine minimum fire flow capacity in the subdivision if service to the subdivision were reduced to the water main on Crafts Avenue in an emergency.” This was also a surprise to us as this scope item was never mentioned to us or the topic of discussion with our engineer. We would like an explanation of why this seemingly unlikely demand scenario was included in the study without discussing the situation with us, what discussions DPW staff had that gave rise to this issue, and under what circumstances this scenario is relevant.
Third, while the water study proposal correctly references “information provided to us from Holden Engineering…” the final report appears to disregard that information entirely, instead relying upon a concept plan that is two years old and was done by a different consultant entirely. Holden Engineering has prepared all of the site plan and subdivision designs formally submitted to the City for review. Holden’s staff has met with Ms. Hall and the DPW staff many, many times over the past year to discuss specific comments related to Ms. Hall’s review and to refine the design of the water system to ensure it meets City standards and would adequately service the proposed development at this site. We are completely baffled as to why Wright-Pierce would radically change course and utilize obsolete information and why the City Staff would either allow or possibly even direct that this information be used when current and more relevant information has been provided. The very language of the consultant’s proposal indicates that Holden Engineering had already given them the correct plan set and we would like an explanation of why incorrect information was used instead.
In similar fashion, the sewer study notes that average daily flow projections were provided by Holden Engineering, but continues by indicating that: “The City reviewed these average daily flows and provided revised flow rates…”, flow rates that totaled approximately 50% more than those provided by our professional engineer. If the DPW staff had concerns with the flow rates our consultant provided, why didn’t they mention it to us or our consulting engineer instead of making their own assumptions without informing us or disclosing the changes?
As a result of using the wrong data and wrong design, the City Engineer is recommending improvements which are equally wrong, and in some cases are simply impractical. The first condition Ms. Hall recommends is to increase the size of the sewer line in Crafts Avenue to 15 or 18 inches. Aside from the impact of the City providing overstated sewer flows for River Park to their consultant, the secondary justification for this change is the possible future redirection of sewer flows that are currently directed to Hanover. We believe our proposed 10 inch line is sufficient to handle the correct sewer flows from River Park and we should not be responsible for improvements designed primarily to handle unknown future demand from other properties. As pointed out by Wright-Pierce, a limiting factor in the sewer flow on Crafts Avenue is the slope of the line. Our engineers worked very closely with Ms. Hall on this issue and had initially proposed a greater slope, but at the direction of DPW staff, the slope was reduced to a minimum in order to minimize impact of this construction on Crafts Avenue and our neighbors.
Ms. Hall’s second proposed condition is that the water line in Crafts Avenue should be replaced and increased in size to 12 inches. Our response is that the City has failed to show why this improvement would be necessary. We believe the scenario of the existing water line in Route 10 failing completely is unlikely and temporary in any case.
The third condition in Ms. Hall’s memorandum is for the entire reconstruction of Crafts Avenue in accordance with all applicable City Standards. The existing conditions at Crafts Avenue appear to be substantially below City Standards and significant widening would be necessary. As a private entity we do not have the authority to widen the roadway into our neighbor’s front yards, nor do we believe it is in their best interest to do so. The narrowness of Crafts Avenue serves as a traffic reducing feature which should be maintained. Further, without the unnecessary water line replacement, the sewer line, as proposed, can be installed in the current roadway with a minimum of disruption. The complete reconstruction of the roadway is not rationally connected to our proposed development.
The fourth condition Ms. Hall proposes is that we remove the six inch water line between Fountain Way and the southern end of River Park Drive and replace it with a 12 inch line. This suggested improvement would serve no purpose. We already have installed a sufficient connection to this same 12 inch water main at the northern end of River Park Drive and our design calls for this line to be looped through our development. Our design does not contain a dead ended water main, which would be obvious if Wright-Pierce had been directed to use the correct water design. Further, extending this section of the 12 inch main would only extend it a short distance along Main Street where it would once again connect to a six inch line that the City apparently has no plans to upgrade. This is a water line to nowhere.
When the Planning Board requested the water and sewer studies and we agreed to pay for them we were operating under a good faith assumption that the City would professionally manage the review and analysis process. However, when we were not allowed to even review the draft reports for accuracy and it subsequently has come out that DPW staff made significant unannounced changes to our input data (increasing our water and sewer demand by 50%), altered the approved scope of the study, and disregarded our professionally engineered design, we are left to question the integrity of this review process and the conditions of approval Ms. Hall has suggested. Based upon our engineer’s analysis of our proposed development program, we believe that our engineered improvements are sufficient to service the River Park development without negatively impacting our neighbors on Crafts Avenue or the City of Lebanon. The improvements proposed by XYZ Dairy go well beyond the impacts presented by the River Park development, which should be the sole criterion for allowing any taxpayer to connect to the water and sewer system that their tax dollars support.
Lyme Propeties 2, LLC
XYZ Dairy, LLC