Selectmen working to secure water for Rochester Crossroads development

Feb 1, 2021

ROCHESTER — After plans for the 208-unit Rochester Crossroads apartment complex were approved at a Jan. 26 Planning Board meeting, the town’s Selectmen are working to get construction underway as quickly as possible. 

Before the project begins, Steen Realty must secure the necessary bank loans in order to begin construction. Right now, one of the factors holding that up is water allocation to the project. 

“If they’re gonna loan you money to construct the project, then they’re gonna want to see you have permits in place,” Town Counsel Blair Bailey said at a Feb. 1 Selectmen’s meeting. 

According to town officials, Steen requested 47,500 gallons per day of water to operate the site. The figure is less than the project will likely use during construction, but sits high due to state Department of Environmental Protection regulations. 

“There’s a number that DEP pulls out of where, we don’t know,” Bailey said at a Jan. 13 Water Commissioners meeting. “It’s a minimum number.” 

Bailey said that it’s likely the site will use less than 60% of the requested allotment. When the water is allotted to the site, the excess water from the project becomes unavailable to other buildings. 

And with most of the town’s water already allocated, there won’t be much wiggle room to make sure Rochester has all the water it may need.

“It’s not our total allotment, but it’s close,” Water Commissioner Fred Underhill said at the Feb. 1 meeting. 

In order to remedy the situation, the Board of Selectmen moved to send Vice Chair Brad Morse to Wareham to request 20,000 extra gallons of water per day for the town. 

“Wareham’s position has been that ‘if you need more, just come ask because we have plenty,’” Bailey said. 

But the 47,500 gallons per day figure was still a sore spot for some at the meeting. 

The figure was initially slightly lower — around 46,000 gallons per day — but the new number was requested by Steen in order to obtain the necessary loans for construction. 

“Until we nail down what really the reason is that he needs this water, I’d like to put this on hold,” Water Commissioner Michael Conway said. 

Town Administrator Suzanne Szyndlar noted  that the reason for the 1,500 gallon addition was to accommodate for the commercial portion of the development site — which Morse added likely won’t begin construction for a few years. 

“Are we gonna hold this project up for 1,500 gallons?” Selectman Woody Hartley asked. 

“Once it gets going, it has momentum. Are we gonna hold this up? They’ve been working two years for this.” 

Eventually, both the Selectmen and Water Commissioners approved the 47,500 gallon request — and the Selectmen agreed to send Morse to ask Wareham for more water once the board deems it appropriate.