Proposal would add five new lots to North Street farmhouse property

The Planning and Zoning Board (P&Z) held open a portion of a public hearing for a re-subdivision of a seven-acre parcel at 701 North Street, which adjoins the Orchards Golf Course. The property is owned by Stone Preserve LLC, which lists Arnold Peck as manager.

At an Aug. 5 public hearing, Attorney Danielle Bercury, representing the developer, said the plan calls for keeping the existing farmhouse on North Street and creating five new residential lots, two on North Street and three to the rear of those directly facing the street. Assessor records indicate the farmhouse was built in 1868.

Raymond Paier, project engineer, said the intent is to keep a portion of the farmhouse while removing some of the later additions. According to City Planner David B. Sulkis, the plans call for removal of the barns at the rear of the property.

The project includes a lot line between lots one and two that has bend in it to allow for preservation of beech trees with an estimated diameter of three to four feet, Paier said.

“We are absolutely preserving those natural beauties,” said Paier. “We established the lot line so they [the trees] don't straddle the lot lines.”

Sulkis said the board must approve this lot line variance, since P&Z regulations call for straight lines when possible.

The plan also calls for preserving some of the trees from the original orchard. Paier said the intent is to provide each property with an orchard.

Paier said the stone walls along the property edge will be maintained, while some small walls inside the property will be relocated and rebuilt to the border of the farmhouse property.

The new houses will be 2,500 to 3,000 square feet with three-car garages, said Paier.

Sulkis said this proposal is different than most subdivisions with regard to the open space regulations because it actually abuts open space, in this case the city-owned golf course. He said the Golf Commission would like land to increase the size of the golf course.

In response, Bercury said the developer plans to make a donation of 10% of the land's value to the open space fund in lieu of a land donation, saying the money will be a “significant donation.”

Bercury said, “We can't accommodate the 10% dedication [of land]. We don't have any wiggle room with these lots.”

The plan did not draw any public comment.

Board members had environmental questions regarding the property. One question was in regard to the property's prior use as an orchard and whether there were any pesticide residues in the soil. The other question was with regard to a possible underground oil tank.

Sulkis said the city does not have any regulations that regulate pesticides.

Board Chairman Benjamin Gettinger questioned whether the board should get involved with that question.

“I am worried we are asking the applicant to do something that is not required,” said Gettinger.

Bercury said she had no knowledge of any environmental issues with the property, saying that any such issues would have come up during the property financing. She agreed to provide any information with regard to the tank and any soil testing that the applicant already had.

The hearing would resume on Tuesday, Aug. 19 for this issue only.

Finally, Mercury questioned the request from the city for sidewalks along North Street, saying there are no sidewalks on North Street anywhere in the area. In particular, she rebuffed a request from the city engineer for sidewalks extending to Kozlowski  Road, which is well beyond this property's borders.

“We are not prepared to install sidewalks offsite, but we can install onsite,” said Bercury. “We are talking about a significant amount of frontage off-site.”

The property at 701 North Street most recently came before the board on Feb. 3, 2009 when Cor-nerstone Christian Center approval to construct a 400 seat sanctuary with an 80-foot high steeple.

When the board approved the church plan in 2009, several board members expressed concern about the traffic the church would generate.

At that hearing, church attorney Timothy Yolen said the underground oil tank had been left in the ground, but the contamination had been remediated years ago under the supervision of the state Department of Environmental Protection.

The church plan called for the farmhouse on the property to be renovated into three apartments. The larger barn would have been renovated into office space and storage. A smaller back barn, and a wood shed would have been demolished.

The church was never built because Cornerstone purchased the former Shriner's building at 349 Wheelers Farms Road on Oct. 28, 2010.