2008-05-15 / Front Page

Roadblocks stall planning decision on Dutton subdivision

By Michaela Kennedy

After a feverish debate about access roads for a proposed subdivision, the Planning Commission delayed voting on the application at the May 7 public hearing. Gary Girard, chairman of the commission, asked the planning staff to prepare a motion regarding the subdivision request for the next meeting.

"It's too complicated. We can't do it tonight," Girard said about voting on the application submitted by Michael and Janice Dutton.

Joseph Palumbo, the attorney representing the Duttons, said his clients were committed to moving Holly Street, which was originally constructed mistakenly outside the right of way by a previous developer, "as an accommodation to the town." Palumbo pointed out, however, that road improvements suggested in a memorandum from Town Engineer Michael Gray were not agreed upon. "My client is willing to provide the labor to meet what Mr. Gray wants, providing the town is willing to provide the materials," he said.

In his memo, Gray advised that a new street should be constructed before the old one is abandoned, citing safety issues for people who currently use Holly Street. He explained to the board at the meeting that the engineering was a simple gradation to direct flow. "I wasn't expecting anything more than that, what we would expect of everyone making a right of way, seeding to prevent erosion. That's what we discussed," Gray said.

William Johnstone of Summit Avenue stood up and thanked Gray for attending the meeting and addressing problems with the plan. From Gray's memo he read, "Presently I do not believe that this application has met the burden of adequate and permanent physical access to a public street and therefore the planning board should not approve the preliminary subdivision application."

Johnstone said that a lot of heavy equipment was on one of the lots in the application, and the proposed changes would force more traffic flow to Summit Avenue. "It would diminish our peacefulness by bringing all the traffic up to Summit, the highest point in the area."

Daniel O'Neill of Summit Avenue asked the board not to approve the proposal as presented "because it puts a burden on residents." O'Neill's wife, Donna O'Neill, also spoke out against the plan, noting that some residents would suffer more traffic flow on both sides of their properties. They suggested considering Union Avenue for access, especially since Dutton has used the street as an address.

Palumbo agreed that the street was considered, but responded, "Union Avenue is, for all intents and purposes, wet." Town Solicitor Christopher Orton objected to Palumbo's claim, saying, "With all due respect, you are placing on the record that it is a wetland. I don't think he's a wetlands biologist and can render an opinion."

In addition to complaints from neighbors about the access road changes on the plan, Dutton objected to spending his own money to build a road to correct placement of a road which should have been overseen by the town originally. He further objected to spending money to direct stormwater flow from a right of way, across the street to his drain. "I'm either going to flip the road, or if the town wants to pay for materials, I will provide the labor," he said.

Commissioner Alexandra Nickol countered Dutton's objections, making light of the financial burden of the road materials. "I don't understand when you're this close, why you wouldn't do it," she said, and pointed out the potential resale value of the two properties. Nickol also protested that the town had any responsibility. "This only benefits the lots there."

Commissioner Barry Holland asked if the town might have materials in inventory to solve the problem. Gray said it would set a bad precedent in providing materials for a private road. Holland suggested a compromise. "To me, we seem to be contradictory. Through the town's failure to act, we have this problem." Holland asked if it was legal to declare that road as a new approved right of way. Orton said he would research the question.

Commissioner Nancy Bennett asked the board to take another look at the drainage issue, adding, "The town bears some responsibility. Why shouldn't we supply the materials?"

Commissioner Jean Brown agreed, arguing that unnecessary burden was put on the client.

Palumbo pressed the board to make a decision that evening, stressing, "Someone else created the problem. We don't want to continue

this any longer." Commissioner Alexandra Nickol called the decision black and white, saying, "The applicant has refused to meet our guidelines."

At the previous hearing in January, the planning board asked the applicant to provide more detailed information regarding the status of additional wetlands on the site. Joe McCue, project manager and wetlands biologist, stood up last week to confirm that no additional wetlands were on the property. Two areas subject to storm flowage marked on the site plan by the state Department of Environmental Management were man-made ditches, he said, adding, "DEM issued the permit with no reference to the two features."

Commissioner Michael Swistak recused himself from the subdivision hearing.

In other business, Town Planner Lisa Bryer reported that review of the form-based zoning template SmartCode was slated for discussion at the next meeting. Bryer also reported that terms for board officers would end in July. She suggested forming a nominating committee for the upcoming elections.

In a parking committee liaison report, Commissioner Jean Brown noted that the Chamber of Commerce favored extending the time cutoff for daily two-hour parking limits downtown from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. The change would benefit the restaurants by stopping late afternoon sailors from filling parking spots, making parking difficult to find for early dining patrons.

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