By Alan Burke
---- — The City Council huffed and puffed last night, but failed to blow down the proposed water tower that is essential to the construction of the controversial 112-home Boulderwood subdivision in South Peabody.
Mainly, it was a problem of overcoming agreements made with developer David Solimine that go back to 1999. These include a provision whereby Solimine is financing the $2 million structure, handing it over to the city, but retaining the right to get some of his investment back by selling space for communication devices on the tower.
Councilors raised numerous questions, including the possibility that the equipment, as voiced by Councilor Rico Mello, would “look like something out of ‘District 9’” (a science fiction movie about alien visitors). Councilors Arthur Athas and Anne Manning-Martin worried that it would interfere with the neighbors’ cellphones and other wireless equipment.
City Solicitor Michael Smerczynski read the fine print of an agreement between Solimine and the city that was signed in court in 2007 and which allows him to rent out the space to the communications companies.
“He’s the holder of the easement,” Smerczynski stressed. But he hinted broadly that the council could attach conditions on any special permit. “If you want to clarify ... what can be done. You have the power to do that.”
For his part, Solimine helped keep the long-delayed project going by quickly acquiescing to conditions proposed by the council, not only concerning the tower but his effort to truck in and out topsoil and fill from the site.
The height of the tower was estimated at roughly 112 feet with a concrete pedestal. It’s to hold 314,000 gallons of water and will not only serve to provide water pressure for the new development but for an even larger section of South Peabody, 250 homes in all. The material is glass fused with steel up to a half-inch thick.
Engineer Bruce Adams of Weston and Sampson gave its expected life span as 100 years. “They don’t leak,” he told worried councilors of the tower. Meanwhile, Solimine noted that wireless companies are not allowed to operate equipment which interferes with other devices, like cellphones.
The conditions the council required for approving the tower included a sunset provision where any new owner outside of the Solimine family must have the special permit renewed, a 5-foot limit to any device placed atop the tower, a requirement that equipment be installed at the sides of the tower and a restriction on building any other towers on the site.
Eventually, only Mello voted against the tower, citing dissatisfaction with the fact that the developer will profit from a structure owned by the taxpayers.
Still more conditions were included before the council granted Solimine’s request for permission to begin trucking materials out of the site. Ward Councilor Barry Osborne lamented that the usually accommodating developer had balked at limiting the hours his trucks will roll and offering a bond for damage done to the Bartholomew Street roadway.
Solimine pleaded that he couldn’t be held responsible for damage to the road because others use it. Nevertheless, he eventually agreed to conditions, including posting a bond for any damage done and limiting the hours the trucks will operate. No permit would have been necessary, he pointed out, under a provision in the law that would allow him to simply wait and truck out the material while houses are under construction. Doing it now, however, allows the work to be done more efficiently as trucks coming in with topsoil can leave with fill.
Solimine estimated that it will take up to 500 truck trips to remove all the waste and up to 1,000 truck trips to bring in all the top soil.