After an unusually warm winter had allowed work to proceed, the neighbors near the long-vacant North Street gas station and convenience store were cautiously optimistic that the owner would finish the work at the site, including planting trees between the station and their properties.
Planting the tree was one of the last steps to end a three-year fight between the neighbors on Buffum Street and station owner, Haralampos Sidiropoulos of Trickett Realty Trust. The trees were also necessary for the neighbors to drop their opposition to the city granting Sidiropoulos a certificate to operate the station.
But then the deal fell apart.
The owner's landscape architect, Lorayne Black of Groton, submitted to the city solicitor Elizabeth Rennard a proposed landscaping plan that claimed all parties were in agreement with it.
“This is not true,” said Ward 6 Councilor Paul Prevey. “The plan submitted by Lorayne Black significantly reduced the number of trees as well as their height on the plan that everyone seemed to be in agreement with back in
The number of some species of trees was cut almost in half and reduced in height by several feet, Prevey said.
“The gas station seems to be at a grid lock point again,” the councilor wrote in an email. “The neighbors are being manipulated and played again, sorry to say.”
Prevey has scheduled a hearing on the issue tonight before his Committee on Public Health, Safety and the Environment. The hearing to review the differences over the landscaping plan is set for 6:30 p.m.
Black, who did not respond to a request for an interview, has been designing outdoor living spaces in New England for more than 20 years. “Whether the project is an intimate garden for a private residence or a master plan for a large, commercial project, our firm provides thoughtful designs that are responsive to the individual client and the unique site requirements,” her web site states.
“Successful projects begin with clear communication with our clients in order to gain an understanding of their vision and to achieve the best landscape design solutions. Each project is an opportunity to create an attractive, creative, functional and environmentally sound outdoor space,” Black's web site states.
Neighbor Helen Papadopoulos said earlier this year that she was “cautiously optimistic” that the landscaping would be installed this spring. But she warned, “We will always remain concerned as long as things are incomplete.”
Papadopoulos wanted the Council to hold a hearing on the station landscaping “to push things along.”
Last fall, all city councilors signed a letter urging the building department not to grant the station its permit until all the issues were resolved.
The owner wanted to open last December. Through his attorney, Joseph Correnti, Sidiropoulos proposed that the neighbors allow him to open. And in return, he would sign an agreement that he would fix the drainage problems the new station appears to have caused neighboring properties and replace the trees that acted as a buffer between the neighbors on Buffum Street and the station.
The neighbors objected.
“The man is totally unreliable. He makes promises, but nothing gets done,” Pat DeSantis, a neighbor, said at the time. “He has done the same thing all over New Hampshire and Massachusetts.”
DeSantis said the neighbors want all the work done before they agree to drop their complaints to the city.