ESSEX — Narrow roads could complicate plans for development at Conomo Point, from possible violations of zoning bylaws to difficulties in getting emergency vehicles to the area after snowfall.
Conomo Point — where the town owns the land and tenants who pay both leases and property taxes claim they own the homes that sit on that land — is being reclaimed by the town of Essex starting on Dec. 31, 2011.
Many tenants have been offered so-called bridge leases that extend for another three to five years, but others will need to vacate the properties at the end of December.
Some of the properties will be turned into public land and some will be sold for development. Exact details as to what will happen to which properties have not been decided.
The town's Board of Selectmen is hosting a public forum tonight at 7 at Essex Elementary School to discuss the Conomo Point-related warrant articles for the Nov. 14 Special Town Meeting, to provide updates regarding the bridge lease process, and address residents' questions.
A Planning Board public hearing on the plans for Conomo Point last month had to be continued after Bruce Fortier, a local activist, pointed out that the current width of the road to Conomo Point (36 feet) is smaller than zoning rules require for town property (44 feet).
During the second session of the meeting last week, board members said the lawyers for the town had determined that the zoning rule did not have to be followed.
The road to Conomo Point is fairly narrow and difficult to navigate under the best of conditions. Currently, Conomo Point is mostly uninhabited during the winter; septic and water services are not available between Oct. 16 and April 14 of every year.
When the town takes possession of the properties, however, the road will be needed year-round. Any repair or construction crews will have to travel the road, and the work will likely have to be done before the busy summer season.
This poses a problem, officials say.
According to an October email sent by Police Chief Peter Silva to the Planning Board, the "buildup of snow on either side of the road may pose certain challenges to responders traveling down that road."
"If another cruiser or emergency responder vehicle is added to the response, the road width will not permit more than one vehicle passage without the second giving way first," wrote Silva. "I have concerns that an ambulance or fire apparatus would exacerbate this condition due to (its) size and width."
Fire Chief Daniel Doucette raises a similar concern in another October letter he wrote to the Planning Board, saying that roads at Conomo Point are too narrow for fire cars to safely turn on.
"Currently," he wrote, "fire apparatus that travels westerly down Town Farm Road cannot turn left onto Cogswell Road."
Stephanie Bergman can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.