Mtg Notes: Plan’g Brd 06.15.12 (1) – Hillside development temporarily thwarted

by Frank Schroth

Marion McEttrick, the attorney representing the open space developement off Hillside Street, went before the Planning Board last Thursday to update them on recent items and to respond to certain statements made in a memo opposing the development.  Chairman Alex Whiteside was not receptive to the arguments, the most significant issue being the driveway.

Ms. McEttrick began by noting that there was a possible buyer for two of the three proposed lots. Thus, there was an opportunity that there would be only two homes built. The proposal is for 3 lots of 4+acres each  that are accessed through a driveway off of Hillside Street. The owner of the property also owns the driveway. Several other homes have obtained deeded access off that driveway to their properties. These are among the property owners opposed to the developement. It is almost all about the driveway.

The developers propose to pave a driveway 12′ wide. The width was reduced to address neighbor concerns, minimize impact on vegetation and plant life, and still allow cars to pass easily. In addition to that, the developers would lay new water pipes and make other infrastructure impovements that would benefit all homeowners. McEttrick also addressed the issue of the development falling under the subdivision control bylaw. She cited precedents from other developments and stated that there was nothing to indicate that the subdivision control bylaw is required. Regarding driveway length, she cited a development with longer common driveways that have been done. McEttrick also said that the paving and infrastructure work would improve fire safety. Chief Grant of the Milton Fire Department who met with the developer’s engineer, reviewed the plans, and has done a site walk of the property, wrote a letter to the Planning Board. In it he said:

In closing I believe that they are proposing improvements that significantly improve fire safety in that area by improving our access and markedly improving our ability to establish a water supply.

McEttrick concluded by saying that the proposal fell within the purview of the open space bylaw and was consistent with its purpose. Further, granting a special permit would limit any future development.

Mr. Whiteside did not agree. He said the driveway was not wide enough. When McEttrick asked how wide it should be, he responded by saying, “It’s too long.” He continued “It is not a well conceived plan in my view. . . and it doesn’t have support of people in the neighborhood.” He would return to this issue later saying, “[You say] you are doing it (i.e. narrowing driveway to 12′) to please the neighborhood but the neighborhood doesn’t seem pleased .  .  . ” It should be noted that this is Chairman Whiteside’s neighborhood (Mr. Whiteside lives at 79 Hillside Street) and many of his neighbors were present at the meeting. Whiteside continued, “You don’t have access unless we give you access .  .  . the [owners] can go in for a picnic [but] that might not be what they want.” An alternative is to come into the property off Ford Ranch Road. However this would entangle the Dept of Environmental Protection due to wetlands involved. The developers would prefer not to do this.

During the public comment period, the board heard from yet another attorney, Mark Bobrowski, who is representing James Corliss of 151 Hillside. Mr. Bobrowski challenged the opinion of Fire Chief Grant. Though he had not seen Chief Grant’s letter (“I’ll be taking a sharp look at that.”) he said that “There are 2 kinds of fire chiefs: [one says] I can get my truck anywhere and that is what you seem to have here.” Babrowski argued that the driveway was too long and too narrow for fire trucks to effectively operate.

After the attorney concluded his remarks, board member Mike Kelly responded, “I need to make a comment. . . I respect the lawyers. . . I also respect our Fire Chief. . . [you called him] a cowboy and I take offense at that.”  Kelly was the only member of the board to speak to  Attorney Babrowki’s characterization.

It was also Mr. Kelly also made a comment that may have summed up the current situation best when reviewing options he said, “Maybe it is always ‘No’ – I don’t know what you do in that case.” What some people do is go to court.

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