Former Scituate Council Member Begins Unauthorized Construction on Controversial Condominium Project
July 13, 2020
NORTH SCITUATE, R.I. — John Mahoney, former Scituate Town Council president and a defendant in a recent assault case, has restarted a controversial condominium development on a 6.7-acre wooded lot off Chopmist Hill Road.
According to witnesses, Mahoney was excavating all day Sunday, June 14, and the following day, even as the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) arrived to investigate the unauthorized construction.
A week later, RIDOT issued a cease-and-desist order to Mahoney for clearing an access road without a permit. Mahoney didn’t receive the letter until July 1, eight mail-delivery days later, at which point he was given 14 days to provide proof from an engineer that the project’s plans haven’t changed, the site hasn’t been altered, and that runoff from the project will not impact roads, drainage systems, or wetlands. If the letter is furnished, RIDOT’s physical alteration permit will be reissued.
A permit for the driveway construction was previously issued by RIDOT on June 28, 2018. But the authorization expired after a year because no work was done at the site.
Despite neighborhood opposition, the Scituate Plan Commission approved preliminary plans for the Chopmist Hill Estates development in November 2018 and allowed an exception to the town’s zoning ordinances that prohibited multifamily dwellings in this neighborhood.
According to Scituate’s Building and Zoning Office, a building permit will be issued as soon as outstanding administrative paperwork is submitted. The building inspector, George Dumont, and Jeffrey Hanson, chairman of the Plan Commission, wouldn’t say what paperwork is outstanding. No public meeting is necessary.
“I have all the permits, and it was done by the letter of the law,” Mahoney said.
Mahoney had promised the seller of the property that he would build two single-family homes on the site, only to file the condominium proposal days after buying the land for $115,000 in March 2016. Once he received development approval for 18 condos, Mahoney tried to sell the land for $850,000. (According to a May 9, 2016 affidavit signed by the seller’s real-estate agent, and by a notary, both the buyer and the agent “verbally re-affirmed to me and my client … that Mr. Mahoney would be building only 2 single family residences at this property.”)
In October 2019, Mahoney announced that he was changing the development plan to a 6-story apartment complex with 350 units of low- and moderate-income housing, only to change his mind and revert to the original plan of 18 condos within six buildings. Five of the units will be classified as workforce housing, selling for $220,000. The remaining condos will list for about $350,000.
Mahoney sold the 6.7-acre property to Macintosh Realty LLC, a shell company he formed, in March. The property was sold again in May to MJ Investments LLC, which lists John Pereira of Lincoln as the agent.
Mahoney said he no longer owns the land but is nonetheless overseeing the development and seeking financing to build the project.
Hanson and Town Council president James Brady Jr. declined to discuss the project and the recent construction.
Mahoney, who served on the Town Council from 2016-18, said he is running for a seat this year, again as a member of the Independent Men of Scituate.
His Chopmist Hill Estates project is in a critical resource area of the Scituate Reservoir. Even though the site is located a quarter-mile from Rhode Island’s primary water source, local water comes from wells and is scarce due to a stone ledge. Chopmist Hill neighbors worry that the condominium complex will draw down their drinking-water supply. They fear the project’s new septic systems will contaminate that supply.
Seventy-five residents who abut or live near the Chopmist Hill Road property signed a petition opposing the development.
Mahoney maintains that he has been assured by a local well engineer that two wells already installed on the site are adequate to meet all of the water needs of the 18 housing units.
Mahoney was criticized for using his position as Town Council president to get the project approved.
He says the attention about the unauthorized work is “from a political adversary to create a negative soundbite for the upcoming election.”
Mahoney has had a recent bout of legal trouble. On May 30, he was charged with domestic violence simple assault and/or battery, and domestic violence disorderly contact after an incident with his 21-year-old son, according to The Valley Breeze.
Police removed Mahoney’s semi-automatic Glock 17 pistol from the property for safekeeping. A no-contact order was ordered at a June 10 hearing. Mahoney was released on personal recognizance of $10,000. A pre-trial conference date is scheduled for Sept. 9.
Police investigated a May 16 incident when Mahoney allegedly dumped trash illegally by breaking a lock on a Dumpster at the Department of Public Works. No charges were filed.
Late last year, the Coastal Resources Management Council issued a cease-and-desist order to Mahoney for altering a coastal buffer at a property he owned in Warwick.