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Water Company Withdraws 742-Acre Plan Downsized Application Forthcoming

July 2, 2008

By Rebecca Correa, The Eagle-Tribune, North Andover, Mass.

Jul. 2–NEWTON — The Hampstead Area Water Co. has withdrawn its request for a 742-acre water franchise.

The company instead will submit a new application for a 66-acre franchise to put pump houses on the property, according to selectmen Chairman Robert Donovan Jr.

The town received word Monday of the company’s new plan, just two weeks after a meeting about the water franchise drew 200 residents, many of whom were opposed to the plan.

Donovan said the town received a letter notifying them of the change in plans three days ago. He said no specific reason was given for the change, but he thinks the meeting June 16 “had a lot to do with the decision.”

The president of the Hampstead Area Water Co. could not be reached for comment yesterday.

The reduction in the size of the franchise is closer to what town Planning Board members said they originally hoped it would be. The water franchise is meant to serve Sargent Woods, an 80-unit senior housing development now under construction.

But planning officials from Newton and Plaistow said a water franchise that large, on the town’s largest aquifer, was going to hurt about 150 families in the area.

Specifically, they believed it would affect the water supply of Newton residents who live on Smith Corner Road, Peaslee Crossing Road and part of Route 108.

And in Plaistow, the proposal would hurt residents of Sweet Hill Road and Greenfield Drive, according to Leigh Komornick, Plaistow’s planning coordinator. She said Sweet Hill Road residents are experiencing water pressure problems that would only worsen with a large water franchise nearby.

The proposal didn’t require town approval. The state’s Public Utilities Commission can approve a water franchise without the town’s blessing. But Newton selectmen held an emergency meeting and intervened in the process, hoping the commission would hear residents’ concerns and reject the plan.

The change in plans is a small victory for Newton officials.

Donovan said he was pleased the company listened to the town’s concerns, but he still doesn’t believe the water franchise is a good thing.

“I’m still not comfortable with it. There’s still some work we want to do with them on it,” he said. “I want to make sure they’re not going to pump water and move it off site.”

The Public Utilities Commission has not scheduled a hearing yet, but one will be necessary on the water company’s plan.

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