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New Ipswich Stowell Road condo development plan to go back to the drawing board

  • Zoning Board of Adjustment Chair Wendy Juchnevics-Freeman listens as USA Properties presents a proposal to build 72 condo units on Stowell Road.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • The Zoning Board of Adjustment listens as USA Properties presents a proposal to build 72 condo units on Stowell Road.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Peter Holden of Holden Engineering presents a plan to build condos on Stowell Road at the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting in New Ipswich on Thursday.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • Peter Holden of Holden Engineering presents a plan to build condos on Stowell Road at the Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting in New Ipswich on Thursday.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • David Lage listens to a presentation by USA Properties on a condo development on Stowell Road at a New Ipswich Zoning Board of Adjustment meeting on Thursday.  Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Monday, June 11, 2018 9:45AM

USA Properties will be going back to the drawing board after members of the New Ipswich Zoning Board of Adjustment weighed in on a plan to build 72 condo units on Stowell Road, saying it’s just too dense to be in the public interest.

On Thursday, the ZBA began a public hearing for a variance to allow more than one multi-family dwelling on a single lot.

USA Properties, represented by Peter Holden of Holden Engineering and USA Properties President Bruce Simpson, is proposing to build nine units, each of which would hold eight apartments, on a 98-acre piece of property on Stowell Road.

Most of the property is covered by a wetland, meaning the units would be built in the southern corner, covering about 20 acres, in a cul-de-sac arrangement. The condos would be housing for people over the age of 50.

ZBA Chair Wendy Juchnevics-Freeman told Simpson that the proposal was a bit of a hard pill to swallow, from a density perspective.

“This density is way too much for this area. I’m really struggling with the compactness of this area,” she said.

David Lage, who serves as the Select Board ex-officio on the board, agreed. He said that at the size of the proposed buildings the zoning ordinance would usually require a 5.5 acre lot. While there was enough space on the lot as a whole to accommodate the number of units proposed, when they are all gathered into one area, it’s too much, he said.

“It’s just too dense, and far exceeds what’s allowed,” he said. 

“What level of density would you be comfortable with?” Simpson asked.

“If you could make four, even five units work, that would be better,” Lage said.

Juchnevics-Freeman said she sees a safety issue with a potentially high number of occupants in a development that would only have one point of entrance and egress from Stowell Road.

“It’s a tough spot,” Juchnevics-Freeman said. “I realize this is an incredibly tough lot. I recognize that. But I can’t imagine this amount of density is in the public interest.”

The discussion arose just as Simpson and Holden were beginning to review their arguments for how the proposal met the five criteria needed to obtain a variance, a one-time exception to zoning rules. However, before they had finished their review of the first criteria, Holden requested that they be allowed to table the public hearing, to allow USA Properties to review the plan and come back with an adjusted plan.

The board agreed to that proposition, though also agreed to allow abutters who had attended the meeting to speak to their concerns about the project, in case there was anything USA Properties would like to address in an updated plan.

Some voiced similar concerns about density, particularly as to how the exponential increase in traffic might impact Stowell Road and Green Farm Road.

“This is going to be horribly busy on Stowell Road,” said Brian Monaghan. “We moved here for the express purpose of it being a quiet neighborhood.”

Several neighbors voiced concerns that the development would make already troublesome water runoff in the area worse.

“We have about all the water we can handle right now,” said Bob McArthur, a Jacqueline Drive resident. 

“In the wintertime, I can go fishing in my backyard,” agreed Sam Benedict.

Though the board clarified that USA properties wasn’t required to fix the water problems in the area, only that it could not make matters worse, Holden said that the developers were not be adverse to putting in swales on the property edges to alleviate some of the issue. 

The board agreed to continue the public hearing until Aug. 2 at 7 p.m. in the New Ipswich town offices. 

 

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.