2014-12-05 / Front Page

Subdivision residents speak out against condo development

By DINA MENDROS | Staff Writer

BIDDEFORD — On Tuesday, several dozen people from one of the city's subdivisions asked the city council to help them thwart a previously approved condominium development in their neighborhood.

A number of people who live on Cathedral Oaks Drive and the surrounding area urged the council to require such a development to be reviewed by the planning board, even though the planning board had approved a condominium project in the area more than two decades before.

Karan Perron, who lives on Cathedral Oaks Drive, in a telephone interview on Monday said she and her neighbors were concerned that a 24-unit condominium project was in the works in their neighborhood, which consists of mostly single-family and two-family homes.

Michael Eon, a local real estate developer who owns the property in question, confirmed during a telephone interview on Thursday that he is planning to build a condominium project on lot 27 on Cathedral Oaks Drive. Although he hasn't yet filed for a building permit, he said he is in the planning stage and hopes to begin construction next year.

On Tuesday, City Attorney Keith Jacques said, in June 1988, the planning board approved plans for a condominium to be built as part of Phase 2A for the Cathedral Oaks subdivision.

At that time, said Jacques, there was no limit on how quickly an approved project needed to go forward.

Therefore, it is the position of the code enforcement office that as long as there is no substantial change, the project can proceed, he said, without going before the planning board.

However, Jacques said, there are concerns about the wetlands in that area, which could affect the plans. Before the code enforcement office would issue a permit, he said, the developer would be required to have representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to review the area and provide comment to the city.

Barring environmental or other problems, the developer could apply for a construction permit, said Jacques. If it were granted, affected parties could appeal the permit before the Zoning Board of Appeals. Either party could appeal that decision in Superior Court.

But some of the Cathedral Oaks residents are hoping the process won't be so easy.

“If and when an application is submitted, instead of relying on a plan submitted more than a quarter of a century ago,” the planning department and then the planning board should review it, said Jim Fisher of Northeast Civil Solutions in Scarborough, who was hired by the abutters.

The neighbors are not trying to stop a residential complex from being built, he said, but “We would like a chance to review this.”

Those living on and near Cathedral Oaks Drive have a number of concerns about a condominium project being built there, said Fisher.

Some of these concerns include the environment and storm water drainage, traffic, school busing and neighborhood character.

A number of the Cathedral Oaks residents spoke about their concerns at the meeting.

John Perron said it doesn't fit in the neighborhood in which the majority of homes are one- or two-family units.

Don Bisson agreed.

“I don't think this belongs in my neighborhood,” he said.

Tom LeBlond and Chuck Sherman said they had environmental concerns.

The flow of the stream in the area has changed since the plan was approved 26 years ago, said LeBlond.

There are wetlands and a turtle crossing where the project would be built, said Sherman.

“I'm opposed to that whole plan,” he said.

Eon, the property owner, said he didn't think the condominium project should be a surprise to anyone. He said when he sold lots in the Cathedral Oaks subdivision beginning in the 1980s; all the sales contracts included information about the project. Although he noted that subsequent sales contracts to later owners may not have mentioned it.

The only reason he didn't build the project in the late 1980s, he said, is because of problems with the national economy.

Now, “it's time to do something,” said Eon, adding that a condominium “is a permitted use in the zone.”

In response to some of the concerns raised by the Cathedral Oaks residents, such as storm water drainage and traffic, he said the retention pond he built when the subdivision was built was constructed to handle drainage for many more units than will be built in the condominium project. In addition, a traffic study shows that the roads can more than handle the amount of traffic that would be added if the project were built.

He's been forthright with the neighbors; “I have nothing to hide,” Eon said.

The city council took no action on the issue.

— Staff Writer Dina Mendros can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 324 or dmendros@journaltribune.com.

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