Proposed Francestown subdivision tensely debated, hearing continues

  • Francestown town line post with rocks stacked on top. Staff Photo by Abbe Hamilton

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/20/2020 11:30:21 AM

Speakers at Francestown’s hearing on a proposed subdivision appealed to the nature of the town’s soul during a three-and-a-half-hour long Planning Board meeting on Tuesday night. The Board voted to continue the site plan review of the proposed subdivision on Stevens Road, which would create five three-acre lots on land owned by Ron and Melissa Shattuck. They devoted a full meeting to the topic on Oct. 20 as well.

Community members supporting the project, including the Shattucks’ son Dillon and his wife, Kyla, encouraged the Board to consider the future of Francestown’s aging community, rather than just the town’s land and buildings in their decision.

“If we can bring in people… that’s a bigger investment in community and in the land of Francestown,” Dillon Shattuck said, rather than freezing out young families.

Kyla Shattuck addressed a resident’s concern about the aesthetics of the proposed houses. “We don’t want to build something that doesn’t fit,” she said, and that she and her husband love Francestown’s architectural standards.

Resident Gary Schnakenberg pointed out that, in terms of livelihood and land use, Francestown is already more suburban than rural.

“What most people are talking about are a rural sensibility, or a rural feel,” he said, which is much more “nebulous and contingent” to pursue. On those terms, he questioned the Board’s scrutiny over the proposed subdivision as compared to a hypothetical proposal for four larger single home lots scattered across town.

Opponents of the project spoke to what they saw as a threat to the quiet, scenic character of the Old County Road South National Historic District, the area of which includes the property in question.

“It would permanently unravel what is now a tight knit fabric of historical heritage in Francestown,” lawyer Amy Manzelli said, representing “some Francestown citizens with concerns” about the application. Manzelli urged Board members to consider not approving the subdivision in any form, and said it would be an “enforcement nightmare” to rely on a 100-foot vegetative buffer to preserve the property’s roadside appearance.

Representatives of the project and some community members decried what they saw as unfairness toward the Shattucks and a lack of clear expectations from the Planning Board. Board member Sarah Pyle stressed that the Board’s process was procedural, “not a popularity contest,” and that the Board gave the applicants a list of deficiencies, “which you cut down by a bazillion,” with just a couple items remaining where the Board might want additional information, she said.

It is well within the Board’s rights to request an Open Space Development for the parcel due to the area’s historical value, per the town’s master plan and zoning regulations, Pyle said, although the Board didn’t have to require such a change, and that they weren’t ready to make that decision. An Open Space Development could cluster eight, rather than five, houses on the lot, Meridian Land Services survey project manager John Lefebvre said, and that the OSD would be more expensive for the applicants, less in line with their goals to provide housing lots and land to their children, and less favorable to the Planning Board’s apparent goals.

Tensions rose throughout the meeting as project representatives and Board members sparred over the grounds for different requests.

“Oh, you’re a bunch of nerds, I’m glad you’re what made America great,” Meridian Land Services Project Manager Doug Brodeur said toward the end of the meeting, after asking for further clarification from Board members on their expectations for the project.

Public comment on the project is now closed. The Planning Board planned a site walk on the property on Saturday, Nov. 21 at 10 a.m., and are scheduled to continue the hearing on Dec. 1, at which point they can ask questions of the applicants and deliberate, Pyle said.

The Board will not be addressing the site plan application for the Shattucks’ existing indoor horse riding arena, which is on the property, until they make a decision on the subdivision, Pyle said, despite several attendees’ attempts to reference that building and its year-long process of getting permission to function as a commercial operation during the meeting.


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