State Appeals Court Upholds Haverhill’s Denial of Building Permits, but Strikes $1 Million Fine

(File photograph.)

A three-judge Appeals Court panel has upheld the City of Haverhill’s permit denials for a 50-unit subdivision in the western part of the city, but reversed a nearly $1 million judgement against developer Michael J. Maroney.

Associate Justices Sydney Hanlon, Dalila Wendlandt and John Englander issued their decision Monday on Maroney’s appeal of a 2018 decision by Essex County Superior Court Judge Christopher K. Barry-Smith. The Superior Court judge ruled Maroney and Maroney Construction Co. did not comply with city requirements—specifically, constructing a water booster station—when building Crystal Springs development.

Haverhill City Solicitor William D. Cox Jr. said he believes the matter is now closed, saying, “I see no basis for the (Supreme Judicial Court) SJC to accept a further appeal by Maroney.”

The judges did not rule on whether the city properly denied building permits for 13 of the houses, saying the matters are moot because Maroney has since lost the property in foreclosure. The panel, however, decided the city’s “building inspector did not follow the required procedures to impose” $687,700 in fines in 2018. With interest, the city had said the amount due was closer to $1 million.

“Maroney does not contest that he violated both the state building code and the city bylaws by building on the lots without the required permits; rather he challenges the procedure by which the fines were imposed and calculated. Maroney’s procedural arguments have merit,” the judges said.

In 2009, Planning Board members approved the project provided a water booster pumping station be built to ensure adequate water pressure and fire hydrant flow. Based on Maroney’s agreement, the Planning Board favorably recommended the proposal to the City Council. Councilors approved the project with those conditions that spring.

Later that year, Planning Board members agreed part of the project—16 lots on a new street, Back Nine Drive—could go ahead without the booster station provided the particular lots could receive adequate water pressure without the booster. Those first houses were built and sold, but the city’s Water Division said during the fall 2012, new homes along another street, Front Nine Drive, could be built only if there was progress on constructing the booster station.

After Maroney built 13 more houses, the city told the court, he still failed to construct the required station. Despite lacking permits, the city charged, Maroney began building four more homes on certain lots a city consultant said required the booster. Upon orders from Building Inspector Richard Osborne, construction stopped.

The judges summarized Maroney’s appeal of the permit denials by writing, “His position was that pursuant to the planning board’s subdivision approval and other agreements with the city, the water booster station did not have to be completed prior to construction, but only prior to occupancy.”

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