20210929-LOC-Rindge

Nathan Chamberlin, an engineer representing Navian Development Co., addresses Rindge's zoning board Tuesday night while presenting the company's latest plans to build 59 new homes on Route 119.

RINDGE — Town zoning officials on Tuesday approved revised plans for 59 new homes on Route 119, likely ending a threat by the developer to take that project in front of a state panel on property-related disputes.

In a meeting at Rindge Town Hall, the zoning board of adjustment voted unanimously to grant a special exception for the Navian Development Co. proposal, which that company needs to build roads across wetland areas on the 110-acre vacant lot across from Foster Terrace.

That decision reversed a previous ruling by the zoning board in June, when it blocked Navian’s proposal, saying it would violate a town ordinance that prohibits drainage swales within 50 feet of wetlands. Board members agreed Tuesday, however, that the company had revised its plans to comply with that requirement.

“I do think they’ve done a very good job of mitigating these issues,” Chairman George Carmichael said at the meeting.

The ruling is also likely to keep the Navian project from going before the state’s new Housing Appeals Board.

Navian, which shares an address in Rindge with the construction firm Boss Contractors Inc., had asked that board in August to review the zoning board’s earlier decision, according to Housing Appeals Board Clerk Elizabeth Menard.

Created earlier this year, the three-member appeals board is charged with adjudicating disputes over local planning and zoning board decisions, municipal land-use regulations, and property-related permits and fees, among other housing issues. The board is intended to resolve those cases more quickly than a superior court; appellants can bring their claim to either body, but not to both.

The state board’s decisions can be appealed to the state Supreme Court.

In its appeal, Navian claimed that a zoning board member was personally biased against the project and that the board’s decision to deny a special exception was “unreasonable and unlawful.”

Navian attorney John Ratigan told The Sentinel earlier this month, however, that the developer had revised its application for a special exception and requested to pause the Housing Appeals Board case. That case would be dismissed if the new plans were approved, he said at the time.

Navian first introduced the development proposal in July 2020, when it called for creating a combined 66 units at the Route 119 site, including 26 single-family homes and 40 multifamily units. The company later revised its plans to comprise 59 units, eight of which would be considered workforce housing.

The revised proposal still needs consent from Rindge’s planning board before construction can begin, according to Carmichael, but that panel had approved the previous plans.

Also on Tuesday, the zoning board agreed to table an objection from the town’s conservation commission over a proposed 20-home development on Route 119.

The conservation commission had challenged that project, which would comprise single-family homes on a vacant lot behind Carol’s Ice Cream, claiming that local officials had failed to keep the developers from possibly encroaching on wetlands at the site. But commission Chairman David Drouin told the zoning board Tuesday that the developers — Shawn and Rodney Seppala, who own the Rindge interior design company Triumph Interiors — had presented new plans to that panel that would adhere “much more closely” to Rindge’s wetland-conservation rules.

Zoning board members accepted Drouin’s suggestion to table the appeal while the Seppalas submit those revised plans to town planning officials.

Caleb Symons can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1420, or csymons@keenesentinel.com. Follow him on Twitter @CalebSymonsKS.