Once again, the Mattapoisett Town Hall conference room was packed with abutters waiting to hear and see the plan modifications for a two-lot subdivision at the end of Snow Fields Road. But on September 18 what they got instead was a completely new roadway plan, one that would take the most contentious part of the project out of the purview of the Planning Board.
Sitting in as chairman for the evening was Nathan Ketchell flanked by Planning Board members Karen Field, Janice Robbins, and Gail Carlson. Also at the table was Mary Crain, town planner and board administrator.
David Davignon of N. Douglas Schneider & Associates, Inc. came forward representing Dennis Arsenault, rolling out copies of a new conceptual design for the entrance way into the uplands situated some 1,100 feet deep into property surrounded by a state-recognized swamp at the end of Snow Fields Road.
Davignon told the board that the proposed project had had one public hearing thus far with the Conservation Commission, saying that process was far from over. Then he directed everyone’s attention to the new concept.
The planned extension of Snow Fields Road into Arsenault’s property would now be a private common driveway with frontage at the west end created by the construction of a large public cul-de-sac. The cul-de-sac would function as a public way, allowing emergency vehicles to turn around as needed and provide frontage, but the house lots themselves would be at the end of a long private driveway, taking it out of Planning Board oversight. Now only the cul-de-sac would be required to receive regulatory oversight by the board.
Davignon said Arsenault had met privately with the Fire Department and that their preliminary review of the new plan had been favorably received. Pointing to the driveway on the drawing Davignon said, “Everything becomes a common driveway … a common driveway doesn’t need Planning Board approval…. This eliminates some of the waivers asked for…. It also changes the width…”
Of the new design, Davignon said, “I request you take this under advisement. We still have to finish with ConCom,” and asked for the board’s reactions.
Ketchell instead opened the hearing up to public comment first.
Abutters asked about stormwater runoff from the proposed long private driveway but were reminded that those issues were under the jurisdiction of the Conservation Commission. They also questioned the viability of a hammerhead at the east end of the driveway serving the two uplands lots. That configuration seemed acceptable.
Also in attendance was Highway Superintendent Barry Denham.
Denham said that although the new design seemed to “side-step” the need for a roadway through the swampy expanse and although the fire department had warmed to this new conceptual design, it was still questionable how emergency vehicles would access the lots if needed. He said that during emergency situations, his department was charged with ensuring that downed trees or snow did not impede access to people needing services.
In response, Davignon asserted, “There is nothing in your bylaws that says they can’t have a long driveway…. No bylaw in place.” He added, “Other towns do, you do not … the bylaws are what we are held to.”
Robbins said she needed time to study the new design, while Crain asked Arsenault if the fire department had any further comment on accessing the lots. Arsenault said they had not.
Denham said private water wells planned to serve the two-lot subdivision would have to be drilled and water tested before building permits would be issued.
The board asked for written comments from various Town departments and boards.
The hearing was continued until October 2.
Earlier in the evening, the board reviewed plans submitted by Carol Lawrence for property owned by Gingras Trust located off Randall Road.
Represented by Al Ewing of Ewing Engineering, the plans call for the construction of a roadway into the 15-acre parcel, creating a new lot and thus providing necessary frontage for the planned two-lot subdivision.
Ewing then read from a four-page report that listed multiple waivers for the Planning Board’s consideration.
There ensued an hour-long discussion on the merits of the roadway as designed, eliciting a number of questions and concerns from the board members.
Of primary concern to Robbins was the width of the proposed new street. Ewing’s design called for it to be only 16 feet wide, one of the waivers requested, with a hammerhead turnaround at the end for emergency vehicles.
Ewing said that most of the waivers took into consideration the fact that the road would be serving only one house lot. But Robbins countered that while that might be the case now, in the future, given the size of the property, further subdivision might be pursued making the road layout inadequate. “What if someone wants to put in 40B housing?” she wondered and noted the size of the parcel, “Other things could be developed.”
Denham had sat in on an informal preliminary meeting to review this project and offered the board members his insights. “In the past, the Planning Board has allowed a road for one house lot.” He pointed to Whitetail Run also off Randall Road. He said that, at that time, the board had allowed a single lot roadway but that any future development off the road would require the applicant to improve it to meet current regulations. “It’s possible in your decision on this one that any further building brings it back to the Planning Board.”
The hearing was continued until October 2.
The next meeting of the Mattapoisett Planning Board is scheduled for October 2 at 7:00 pm in the town hall conference room.
Mattapoisett Planning Board
By Marilou Newell