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AGREEMENT WITH TOWN BROKEN

97aug07

Tice Pl. Resident Complains Over Builder’s Work

By PAUL J. PEYTON

Specially Written for The Westfield Leader

Town officials this week vowed to continue to keep a close watch on a developer who is connecting a new sewer line on a portion of the street he owns to the town’s sewer system on Tice Place. The process has involved the laying of sewer piping by using the town’s easement, a portion of which runs through two privately-owned properties.

As the builder of the development on Dunham Avenue, V&R was required to construct a new sewer line, drainage system, curbing and a new street. Part of the sewer piping runs through the town easement which runs through two residential properties on Tice Place. V&R will construct four new homes on the land which the company purchased from the town in 1995.

The nearly 60,000- square-foot undeveloped Dunham Avenue parcel was purchased by builder Frank Paparatto of Kenilworth at a public auction several years ago. As the developer of the property, the town has required Mr. Paparatto to improve the street with macadam pavement and to install a new sewer pipe.

Reed Margulis, the owner of 919 Tice Place, told the council that he is concerned the developer will not follow the letter of the agreement with the town which requires him to return the town easement to pre-construction condition, including the replacement of grass, shrubbery and sprinkler heads and sewer piping.

Sprinkler systems along both the Margulis property and the home of one of his neighbors were damaged but repaired by the developer, although not to the satisfaction of Mr. Margulis, who said he wants to bring in his own maintenance person to repair the system. The sprinkler system runs along the easement and was cut, along with damage to the plastic sprinkler heads, when a trench was made for the sewer pipes.

After he was contacted by Mr. Margulis, Department of Public Works Field Supervisor Barry Betzel visited the site. Town Engineer Kenneth B. Marsh explained that during one inspection of the site, the developer was about to install a cracked sewer pipe. Mr. Betzel quickly stepped in and demanded the two broken pipes along the easement be replaced.

Also of concern to Mr. Margulis and some council members was the failure of the developer to provide 48 hours notice before the start of construction.

Mr. Marsh explained that Mr. Paparatto notified his office that he wanted to start construction. Mr. Marsh said he told Mr. Paparatto that he could not start due to a stop work order imposed by the state’s Sewer Conservation Board. That order was rescinded a few days later.

Once this was resolved, the developer paid a fine to the board and began construction, but failed in the process to give the required notification to property owners.

Mr. Marsh said it was his decision to allow Mr. Paparatto to start the work without the proper notice in order to avoid a delay in the completion of the work.

Mayor Thomas C. Jardim said he believes agreements with the town should be followed by developers.

Although noting the failure to provide notice to residents, Town Attorney Charles H. Brandt said the developer "basically adhered to the agreement." He said the developer filled in the hole on the easement promptly.

Mr. Marsh said that a storm also delayed the filling in of the hole by a few days, thus resulting in an extension over the seven allowable work days for completion of the work as included in the agreement.

When contacted by The Westfield Leader yesterday, Mr. Brandt said about $35,000 has been placed in escrow for the improvements made by the developer should the town need to hire their contractor to make repairs as a result of the work. Such an agreement, he said, is customary for public property improvements.

The amount in escrow, 120 percent over the estimated cost of the work by the builder, will be held until the council approves the release of the funds when the work is completed.

Mr. Marsh explained during the meeting that "essentially the work is completed except for the top soil and seeding. Whatever adjustment has to be made on the sprinkler system will be made." He said he will tell the developer to fix the sprinkler system before completing the work.

Mr. Margulis alleged that when filling in the easement after laying the new sewer pipes, Mr. Paparatto took grass and soil from adjoining properties without notifying property owners.

In fact, Mr. Margulis’ wife called the police at which time two officers arrived and indicated to Mrs. Margulis that a police report regarding the trespassing allegation would be filed.

Litigation is pending against the developer by Mr. Margulis over charges that Mr. Paparatto trespassed onto his property and bulldozed trees in his backyard over an area of 2,300 square feet. The Margulis family has said they want the developer to pay for a landscaper of their choice to restore the damaged property to its previous condition.

The town’s easement of 10 feet in width runs between Mr. Margulis’ property and that owned by Fred Chemidlin, also of Tice Place. Mr. Margulis told the council that neither he nor Mr. Chemidlin were notified by the developer. Mr. Chemidlin was not in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting.

"Mr. Paparatto appeared on the site one morning, personally operating his bulldozer," stated Mr. Margulis in a letter dated July 30 to the Mayor, a copy of which was obtained by The Westfield Leader.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Fourth Ward Councilman Lawrence A. Goldman questioned whether the town could prevent V&R Realty from developing properties in town in the future.

Mr. Brandt said a municipality cannot prevent a firm from the public bidding, noting that the town is required to accept the highest bid.

Mr. Marsh indicated the Public Works Department does not have the staff to monitor a builder’s work as much as it would like to, thus the town has legal agreements which include provisions regarding such issues as sewer and street improvements.

Mr. Margulis said the developer has not lived up to the "letter or spirit" of the agreement with the town.

In an unrelated matter, the approved an agreement with V&R to hook two existing homes on Dunham into the new sewer line they have installed on the street. The homes are currently hooked into a main line on Clifton Street. The town will pay half the costs.

The council introduced an ordinance to add a bird sanctuary and nature park along a town-owned portion of Durham Avenue. Town Administrator Edward A. Gottko has said it would have been unlikely that this area could be developed for homes in the future due to existing wetlands. A stream runs through the proposed sanctuary.

The sanctuary would be almost 800 feet in length and 200 feet wide except in the area of Waite Place, where the width would be 400 feet, according to a map included with the ordinance.

In other business, the Town Council issued temporary permits to three establishments to operate cafés on property through the end of the season, October 31. Each of the establishments will be billed for the permits, officials said.

Wyckoff’s, restaurant on North Avenue, Jordan’s Bakery on South Avenue and the Prospector Store along Prospect Street, through the action of the Town Council, will be able to operate these cafés while the council’s Laws and Rules Committee reviews the ordinance.

With the exception of the Prospector Delicatessen on Prospect Street, sidewalk cafés may open as early as 6 a.m. The Prospector deli, since it is located in a residential area, will not be able to open until 9 a.m. so as not to disturb neighbors in the area. The 6 a.m. starting time was approved in a separate ordinance and includes existing cafés.

Wyckoff’s is currently operating a café in the rear of his North Avenue establishment, the only café located solely on private property. The eating area is separated from the parking lot by plantings.

Jordan’s, located on South Avenue, will also be on private property while Prospector’s will be situated on public and private property. When the council first established the sidewalk cafés in 1994, the ordinance was written to restrict such outdoor eating areas to public sidewalks.

Officials have said that the town’s zoning laws do not permit the consumption of food on private property of eating establishments.

In addition to reviewing the expansion of cafés to include private property, the committee will also be looking at the boundaries of where the cafés can be located. The 1994 ordinance restricts such activity to the central business district.

Councilman Goldman noted last week that the ordinance, when it was drafted, did not take into account cafés on private property or areas outside of the business district.

First Ward Councilwoman Gail S. Vernick was the lone council member to vote against the resolution. She said she was concerned over the impact the Prospector café would have on the residents in the area, given the fact the area is largely residential.

She also said she would like to see a copy of a petition which has reportedly been received by some council members. Councilwoman Vernick told The Westfield Leader that she has heard that the multi-page document includes signatures of non-residents.

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10/25/97.

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