After three years of waiting and wrangling over trees and drainage, bulldozers and workmen have descended on the vacant gas station on North Street to replace an unapproved drain and build a retaining wall to stop the water runoff that flooded neighbors' yards.
Left undone is the planting of trees to replace those that were cut down three years ago.The cutting of several tall trees set off a battle that has pitted neighbors and city officials against the station owner, Haralampos Sidiropoulos of Trickett Realty Trust.
The city building department, backed by a unanimous City Council, has refused to grant a certificate of occupancy to the station, pending the resolution of the landscaping issues. That has prevented the new station from operating.
'A Lot More Work to be Done'
“There has been some progress,” said neighbor Helen Papadopoulos. “But there is still a lot of work to be done. I'm cautiously hopeful about the progress, but we will always remain concerned as long as things are incomplete.”
Ward 6 Councilor Paul C. Prevey, who has championed the neighbors' cause, said he understands that the project is waiting on the landscape architect to return from an overseas trip to review the plan for planting the trees one more time before they are installed this spring.
David Knowlton, the city engineer, has checked the new drain, Prevey said.
Prevey said he is considering calling a meeting of the owner and the neighbors before the Council to get an update on the progress at the station.
Papadopoulos said she would like to have the Council hold a meeting “to push things along.”
Last fall, all councilors signed a letter urging the building department not to grant the station its permit until all the issues are fixed.
The owner wanted to open before the holidays. Through his attorney, Joseph Correnti, he proposed that the neighbors allow him to open the station. In return, Sidiropoulos 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 said no.
“The man is totally unreliable. He makes promises, but nothing gets done,” Pat DeSantis, a neighbor, said last fall. “He has done the same thing all over New Hampshire and Massachusetts.”
At that time, DeSantis said the neighbors want all the work done before they agree to drop their complaints to the city.