P&Z approves controversial Seaside Avenue housing
At its July 5 meeting, a divided Planning and Zoning Board approved a modified version of a proposed nine-unit housing complex with three affordable units at 214-224 Seaside Avenue, reducing the number of total units to eight.
About 20 neighbors were in attendance, and when board chairman Anthony Sutton announced the 4-3 vote, Donald DeForge of 17 Meadowside Road stepped to the microphone and chastised the board, saying, “You should be ashamed you passed this,” at which point Sutton banged the gavel and told DeForge, “You are out of order.” Since the public hearing closed on June 21, there was no further opportunity for public comment.
Jeffrey Gordon, landscape architect, site planner, and president of Codespoti & Associates, who presented the plans on behalf of property owner Eugenia Debowski, was not present at the meeting. In an email following the meeting, Gordon wrote that he would have to review the approval before making a decision about how to proceed.
“If they eliminated a unit, that would certainly not have any bearing on health, safety and welfare. Such an approval could also be appealed,” wrote Gordon.
Gordon appeared before the board at a June 21 public hearing with modified plans to address concerns with regard to driveway sightlines raised by the board at its April 5 meeting when it unanimously denied the original proposal.
In Gordon's proposed plans, the house at 224 Seaside Avenue would be demolished, while the existing house at 214 Seaside Avenue would remain. A single-family cottage would be built at 214 Seaside Avenue, along with the seven cottages originally proposed for the rear of the property.
The two garages originally planned for 214 Seaside Avenue would instead be located at 224 Seaside Avenue. The driveway at 214 Seaside Avenue would be used to access the property with the driveway at 224 Seaside Avenue reserved for emergency access only.
Board vice chairman Edward Mead made the motion to approve the project as revised by Gordon with the modification to remove one of the proposed cottages at the rear of the property. Mead also added the condition that traffic signs be added along Seaside Avenue to control traffic.
Mead commented that the board has had problems with 8-30g applications because the Superior Court judge who reviews appeals from developers overturns the board's decisions. Since the board does not have the authority to deny such projects, he offered the motion to approve a modified project, saying, “It is up to the applicant to meet the conditions.”
Speaking against the motion, and saying he was in favor of denying the project, board member Thomas Nichol said the traffic expert hired by the neighbors, Kermit Hua, “said this will not work. It's a safety concern with the sightlines.”
Nichol said that Hua is a registered traffic engineer with the state, but Gordon, who criticized Hua's report, is a landscaping architect and site planner, not a traffic engineer.
Nichol said he had further concerns with regard to the snow storage plan, saying one location would block the emergency access, while the other area would even further limit the sightlines at the project driveway.
Voting in favor of the motion were Mead, Sutton and board members Carl S. Moore, and Michael Dolan. Voting to deny were Nichol, and board members Tom Panzella, and Scott Marlow. Three other board members were absent from the meeting. The project received a special permit, coastal management site plan review approval, and site plan review approval.
About 30 residents attended an earlier hearing June 21, with six speaking in opposition, voicing the same traffic concerns for the revised plans that they expressed at the March 1 public hearing for the original proposal.
The board unanimously denied those plans on April 5, stating that the sightlines at the project driveway were insufficient for the speed at which people are driving on Seaside Avenue.
At the June 21 hearing, Gordon said that by moving the driveway location, the required sightline to the north at 214 Seaside Avenue, as measured from 10 feet off the curbline, is 368 feet and the project has 371 feet. The sightline to the south needs to be at least 379 feet and is “well in excess of 1,000 feet,” he said.
At that same meeting, Hua said he took measurements on June 15, measuring 15 feet back from the curbline. He calculated a sightline to the north of 320 feet, short of the required 368 feet, and a sightline to the south of 500 feet, exceeding the required 379 feet.
Hua said people traveling south on Seaside Avenue have a winding road with a crest approaching the site. He said a review of area accidents show that they can be attributed to the roadway geometry.
The 0.46-acre property at 214 Seaside Avenue has a 2,100 square foot home constructed in 1947, while the 0.72-acre lot at 224 Seaside Avenue has an 1,800 square foot home constructed in 1900. The two properties total 1.18 acres.
Gordon said each cottage would be about 1,200 square feet. The cottages would have sprinklers. The project would include 10 garage parking spaces and 12 surface parking spaces.
The plan was filed under the state's 8-30g affordable housing law, which supersedes local zoning regulations. If the P&Z chooses to reject the revised plans, for the court to sustain the denial, the P&Z has to prove the project poses a hazard to public health, safety or welfare, a threat that outweighs the need for affordable housing.