By Bob Dorer
At their January 6 meeting the Planning Board held a public hearing for a planned residential “Cluster Development” at 30 Chelmsford Road. Click to view a scalable PDF of the image, Lot at 30 Chelmsford Road. The owner of the five acre parcel, Yakov Kogan, was present at the hearing along with his development team. The team noted their work with the Board and Board staff since this past July and said they had received a strong message to try and pursue a cluster rather than the traditional development approach.
The lot has some steep terrain and it abuts wetlands to the west, the Minnie Reid Conservation land to the south, and is in close proximity to the Coffin Conservation land to the northwest. The development team reviewed their plans for the Board and public in attendance, noting their efforts to create a development that deals appropriately with the challenging topography and that responds to the desires of the town’s Conservation Ranger to protect the abutting sensitive natural areas as much as practicable. They also noted the plan to save as many trees as possible where grades permit it. However, the actual number of trees to be removed versus saved was not clear to the audience in attendance.
After the presentation by the developers on the road and lot layouts, site drainage, and landscaping plans, the Board and Board staff reviewed comments as well as input from various other interested parties. Items such as the desire by the Department of Public Works to reduce the steep grade in a portion of the road (currently a vertical gradient of 7.5%, close to the town limit of 8%) and the Conservation Ranger’s desire to increase the “Common Land” portion of the cluster as much as possible were highlighted.
Board and Board staff also discussed their own questions and comments with the development team. Board members expressed their concern about the safety of the steep vertical gradient of the road in one key location near the entrance as well as sight distances and their impact on the safety of the entrance and exit area at the busy Chelmsford Road. They also queried on details related to the need for individual house sewage ejector pumps and a forced main to Chelmsford Road and how power outages would impact its operation.
Some Board members also expressed concern about some of the details related to the type of plantings for the landscaping as well as the safety of the significant retaining walls needed to help level the lots. The need to ensure proper maintenance of the planned bioswaleand pervious pavement sidewalk was also discussed.
During the public comment period several abutters to the property expressed dismay at the impact this development would have on their properties and the privacy and views in their backyards. Some abutters noted that significant aspects of the development such as major tree removals, road building, and street lights will be very close to their rear lot lines. They were also concerned about how street lights and house location and massing would impact them due to the close proximity to their backyards. One abutter made a plea to save as many trees near her property as possible.
Later the Board noted they may pursue the concept of modifying street lighting requirements to help reduce the impact on abutters. One abutter also poised a question about the extra load on the town’s sewage pumping station located on an easement on his property and asked if it would run more often, noting its operation already has a significant noise impact on his property.Abutters also expressed concern with the safety of the entrance /exit to the development.
The Board agreed that safety issues related to this entrance, and the nearby Chelmsford Road/North Road intersection should be discussed further with the DPW and the town’s Transportation Advisory Committee.
Near the end of this portion of the hearing, clearly showing some frustration, the developers noted that by right they could have pursued a traditional subdivision housing development but instead, in response to various inputs from the town, had taken the approach of attempting a cluster development to preserve more open space on the periphery of the parcel and to pursue the concept of low impact development.
Finally, the Board reviewed all the issues raised by them and the public with the development team that needed clarification and thus noted the need to continue (and not close) the hearing. A motion was made, seconded, and approved to continue the hearing until March 15, 2016.