By Alan Burke
---- — PEABODY — City officials have called a halt to a construction project on Route 1 at Winona Street that saw rivers of mud and silt flowing into neighboring yards when it rained.
“I put a cease-and-desist order on Marchese Properties on Route 1,” Mayor Ted Bettencourt announced yesterday, citing a controversial development that’s been years in the making.
According to the mayor, developer Richard Marchese has agreed to stop the work, which includes a commercial building on Route 1 and a housing development on Leno Marshall Drive. The cease-and-desist order was passed by an emergency session of the Planning Board.
“It puts everything on hold,” the mayor said, including completion of the commercial building.
A hearing before the Planning Board has been set for Feb. 7 to determine if Marchese has followed his permit from the city and if that permit should be rescinded or modified.
The problem, Bettencourt said, is piles of dirt left “haphazardly” on the property. The recent storm brought project shortcomings into sharp relief.
The mayor was shown photos, offered by neighboring residents, in which “you could see the water coming down these large piles of dirt and mud and going on people’s property. ... I saw pictures of yellow mud and dirt going down the street.”
At one residence, runoff ended up on a pool cover.
These observations were backed up by investigations by the building inspector and other city officials.
“He has not done the mitigation work,” Bettencourt said. “It’s unacceptable.”
Consequently, the developer has been ordered to do what’s needed to stop the erosion and runoff.
On the other hand, the mayor reports that the developer has expressed a willingness to solve these problems. “They say they’re going to do the right thing,” he said. “He’s agreed to our order to do the mitigation work.”
If it isn’t done, he added, a further step would be to seek satisfaction in the courts.
Marchese had originally planned a bowling alley on Route 1, with a 14-home subdivision called Winona Woods out back. The bowling alley “fell through,” according to the mayor.
By 2008, sharp opposition had developed from neighbors who had first welcomed the housing development as a preferred alternative to a condominium complex. Later, they lamented that a wooded area had been cleared of every tree and they no longer recognized it.
Planning Board Chairman Jack Creeden noted that the developer “had big plans. Then he just left it. ... He did nothing about planting trees or doing anything to protect the neighborhood.”
“It’s been an ongoing problem,” Bettencourt said.