PITTSFIELD -- The Community Development Board has reluctantly agreed to extend the deadline for a local developer to improve streets in a subdivision so they can be accepted as city streets.
City Solicitor Kathleen Degnan had asked the board for approval to seize a $179,000 letter of credit Yola Esther Development, LLC, and owner Joseph Kroboth had established to ensure the work would be completed. The city would then seek construction bids and complete the work itself.
Ward 4 Councilor Christopher Connell, in whose ward the subdivision off Williams Street and Leona Drive is located, had pressed for action on behalf of residents frustrated over the lack of progress. In addition to the streets not having final paving and promised sidewalk, lighting and tree planting, the fact they are not accepted city streets means the developer remains responsible for plowing and other maintenance, he said.
Connell said at this week's board meeting that residents complained about inadequate plowing and other services, which now are provided by the developer on the private streets.
He said that after similar complaints in 2012 about the pace of progress toward acceptance of the streets, Kara Drive, Giovina Drive and Karen Drive, the developer agreed to finish the work, but that hasn't been done.
Representing Yola Esther Development, attorney Thomas Hamel, of Martin, Oliveira & Hamel, presented an agreement that promised the work would be done this construction season. He later specified July 31 as a finish date, although he said a final paving coat on Karen Drive might have to wait until next spring.
Hamel also promised to return every 30 days to board meetings to provide updates on the work.
Connell and board members expressed reluctance to accept another delay. The councilor said that, if the work is not finished this construction season, it would be too late for the city to seize the letter of credit and bid the street work this year.
Hamel argued, however, that he would be forced to seek an injunction in court if the city tried to seize the funding, and that, at any rate, the developer could move faster to complete the work because he is not required to seek bids.
Board Chairwoman Sheila Irvin took exception to Hamel's remarks about seeking an injunction, saying, "I don't appreciate your tone," which she said sounded threatening. She said that the residents have "been very patient" and have reason to be frustrated at the slow progress.
Hamel apologized, saying that no threat was intended. He added that he wouldn't give his word lightly if he didn't believe the streets will be improved this year.
Connell said he understands that the developer could move more quickly than the city in finishing the streets for acceptance, but he noted that a similar promise "was made two years ago."
He added, "Frankly, I'm not confident."
Board members indicated a willingness to take legal steps to seize the assurance fund of $179,500 and finish the work if progress again lags.
The subdivision originally was approved for developer Emino Barbalunga in 1997 for 41 lots on two streets. After Barbalunga's death, the current owner purchased the subdivision from the estate in 2003.
A number of homes have been sold, and the developer plans to continue to build homes, Hamel said.
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