LINCOLN – Neighbors opposed to a housing development on Lincoln’s Rockyroad Avenue are calling it the “Rockyroad horror picture show,” saying the developer is putting their health in jeopardy by burning construction materials out in the open.
Despite numerous neighbors speaking out in opposition to the seven-lot residential project, developer Jim McKee’s plan to extend Rockyroad Avenue and build seven new homes was approved last Wednesday, Aug. 28, with conditions, by the Planning Board. McKee’s Terrapin Development LLC received permission to subdivide a 3.73-acre lot off Chapel Street.
Neighbors say this project has already had significant health and safety impacts. They claim workers for McKee’s company have been repeatedly told to burn materials on the construction site in an open fire pit. Open burning is not permitted in Lincoln.
McKee’s attorney told the Planning Board last week that the burning was a one-time incident.
McKee’s projects in neighboring Cumberland have been the target of numerous complaints by those who buy his homes and abutters to the developments.
Solicitor Anthony DeSisto, who said burning on the site was not permitted under the town’s regulations and was “creating a public safety issue for the town and a public health hazard with the smoke,” raised the issue at the meeting. “It’s not just an issue for the neighbors, it’s the town. I thought it appropriate to address this with the owner here.”
Though a number of abutters were prepared to speak about the project during last week’s Planning meeting, they were not permitted to do so.
Ed Perry, the abutter who called the Fire Department last week, told The Breeze he was concerned for the two young children playing near an unattended pit.
“The two firefighters reported a smell of sulfur and were concerned about the situation. I’ve been told that workers on site were instructed to burn any debris from the development that could be burned, that way the dumpster didn’t have to be emptied as often, saving money, yet causing a very dangerous situation,” Perry said.
McKee’s attorney Nicole Martucci, representing Michael Kelly’s law office, said the Fire Department contacted McKee to alert him of the burning, and “as soon as he found out, he took action. This was a single incident. There is really no threat of it happening in the future.”
“It’s been happening nonstop,” responded neighbor Cindy St. Jaques. “It has not been a single incident.”
When board member Gerald Olean questioned whether policing the open burning was the responsibility of the Planning Board, DeSisto said he wanted the board to be aware of the issue.
“There is nothing you can do to enforce it, but there are things you can do to ensure that it doesn’t happen in the future. That’s what the Planning Board is all about … planning for the future,” he said.
Abutters to the project have also complained about the impact of blasting, as well as alleged flooding conditions related to the construction.
The lack of property markers delineating the development was another of their concerns. McKee’s 3.72-acre property is abutted by 6.62 acres of town-owned conservation land.
In a letter to the town, St. Jacques, who lives on Rhode Island Avenue, cited a number of concerns, including flooding, noting that one McKee-owned property creates a run-off that leads into the backyard of an existing home.
St. Jaques said her primary concern is damage to her vehicle due to an excessive amount of dust and dirt under the hood. She sais she’s afraid the well on her land might also be impacted.
Perry agreed that dust control is a major concern, in addition to the lack of property stakes and runoff issues.
“I feel we have been lied to. The setbacks have not been dealt with, shortcuts are being taken, and there are major safety concerns. These conditions will only continue,” he said.
St. Jacques also expressed frustration with jack-hammering related to the project, adding that it feels like an earthquake hitting her house.
“This is wrong. My property should not be subjected to this. Our neighborhood properties should not be subjected to what we have had to endure,” she said. “How many more residents, good people, taxpayers, and veterans like myself, have to be put through this unwanted torture?”
As a condition of master plan approval, all blasting and hammering has to be done between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., excluding weekends and holidays.