Cumberland seeks to hold developers accountable on landscaping

Cumberland seeks to hold developers accountable on landscaping

Temporary stop signs get a nod

CUMBERLAND – Too often, says Planning and Community Development Director Jonathan Stevens, the word “should” is taken as a suggestion by developers when it comes to maintaining and restoring the town’s landscape.

Stevens is recommending changes to Cumberland’s zoning ordinance mostly centered on changing “should” to “shall,” creating mandates from the Planning Board that the landscape and trees shall be preserved, that general topography shall be maintained, that landscaping shall be a unifying effort, that permanent planters shall be required in urban areas rather than encouraged, or that the appropriate length of a property shall be vegetated, among others.

Without more specific requirements, Stevens told Cumberland Town Council ordinance subcommittee members Tuesday, “We can’t practically enforce the landscape ordinance.” If a development is moving forward, the Planning Board could use this new wording to make sure stipulations are adhered to, he said.

This won’t ultimately be a panacea, as a tree protection ordinance would likely be “the ultimate vegetation protection the town could have,” said Stevens, but going that alternate route as some other communities have would present a set of complicating factors, including requiring a tree warden and requiring that all properties be subject to provisions.

The best first step to protecting the town’s landscape in the face of development is to focus on developers and to give the Planning Board more authority to protect the existing landscape and negotiate with more authority on provisions related to mature trees, fences, stone walls and other features the town would like to see preserved, said Stevens.

The town has repeatedly tussled with some developers, particularly Jim McKee, as stipulations in Planning Board approvals have been ignored.

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Subcommittee Chairman Scott Schmitt said his concern was that using the word shall while taking out the words “whenever possible” might create a situation where it obligates a developer to do the impossible and in essence kill the project. The town can’t bind the developers to the point of putting them out of business, he said.

Town Solicitor Kelley Morris Salvatore responded that the Planning Board can waive a requirement as long as someone is following good planning practices and legitimately needs to be excused from a requirement. Morris Salvatore said the waiver is the better approach than keeping “whenever possible,” as those words are very subjective. Schmitt said her answer satisfied the concerns that he had.

The ordinance subcommittee on Tuesday recommended approval of a new ordinance allowing the town to place temporary stop signs without council approval. Permanent stop signs would still require council approval.

Officials said the change requested by the administration streamlines the new traffic management group’s mission to conduct studies and address traffic issues. Councilor Lisa Beaulieu said the allowance for temporary signs to be placed for up to 90 days will help with construction projects, noting the likely impact on Hines Road as the water main construction project proceeds on Diamond Hill Road.

The subcommittee decided to make a recommendation to the full council to approve the temporary signs and to also include a provision allowing extending the 90 days if needed. That will be particularly useful on long construction projects, they said.


Holding Ponds, Retention Ponds, call them what you may (I have a name...but, this is a Family Newspaper)...however they are among the "Biggest Eyesores" in this Town! More-so, most (all) are poorly maintained...if maintained at all!

It has long been my understanding (please correct me if I am wrong) that many developers (one in particular, no names mentioned) circumvent their responsibilities by creating highly creative circumstances, often with the help of Hired Guns...aka "Not in My Back Yard" attorneys. (Again, no names mentioned!)

Holding Ponds, often poorly designed, and built on the cheap! They also, while fenced in, often wind-up part of a homeowners lot...the homeowner being responcible for its maintenance/upkeep. Keeping a holding Pond's maintenance, and appearance, for all intents and purposes, does not exist in this Town!

I've often wondered what happens when a home is sold and has a holding, or retention, pond that has been let go...let go in more ways then one?

Another tactic of some developers, again, one in particular (no names given) is to create within his/her development a large holding/retention pond for the use of the Homeowners'Association...they responsible for it. Something that in my 46-some odd years living in this part of Town, along with single lot homeownets, I do not see happening.

Whose responcibility, within the Town, being as so many boards and departments played a initial role in their being created, are Responcible?

What happens when a home on a single lot, or within a homeowner association development, are sold?

Who follows up to insure the holding/retention pond has been maintained...or do we, wink-wink, look the other way that the new, incoming, family get this burden dumped on them.

Should not the selling Real Estate Agent, looking to scoop a quick 6%, $24,000.00, commission, be Responcible? More-so, the agent representing the buyer?

What about the Home Inspection Firm? What are their responsibilities?

And, of course the Town.

In closing, if anyone is interested, I would be glad to show you, at least, 6-different holding/retention ponds, (Abbott Run Valley Road, Lippitt Estates, and up behind me) as examples that more then fulfill what it is that I am trying to bring forth!

Thank You

Tom Letourneau
Old Reservoir Road