Decision deadline nears for proposed seven-lot subdivision in Wilton

  • Wilton Planning Board Chair Alec MacMartin discusses a proposed seven-lot development during a hearing on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI​​​​​​​

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/18/2023 9:49:46 PM

An application for a seven-lot development on Barrett Hill in Wilton is likely to receive a decision next month, as the Planning Board comes up against a law-mandated deadline to render a vote.

Board members initially told the applicants they would not be discussing the application in-depth during their meeting on Wednesday, on the grounds that the board had not had sufficient time to review updated plans.

Jonathan Lefebvre of Fieldstone Land Consultants, representing applicant San-Ken Homes, said the updates had been submitted in the timeline given to San-Ken by town planning consultant Caleb Cheng, who was unable to attend Wednesday’s meeting due to illness.

“It hasn’t been reviewed,” said Planning Board Chair Alec MacMartin. “We’re not talking about it tonight.”

In part, MacMartin said, that was to allow the board to send plans out for a third-party review.

However, the board had already accepted the application as substantially complete at its Dec. 21 meeting, which started a clock for when the board must render a decision – 65 days, by state law, unless the applicant waives that right. San-Ken Homes Vice President Kenny Lehtonen indicated San-Ken Homes intended to hold the board to that timeline.

“Our intent is not to grant an extension on the 65-day deadline,” Lehtonen said.

MacMartin assured Lehtonen and his representatives that was their right, but that if the board did not have the answers to all questions during its next meeting, the board would have to render a decision based on the information it had in front of it. MacMartin added that he was unsure if the third-party review would be ready within the next month.

Despite initially saying the board wouldn’t discuss the application on Wednesday, MacMartin did allow a review of the updates to the plan and discussion on a vegetative buffer, and allowed some comment from abutters who were present at the meeting.

The board and San-Ken Homes representatives went back and forth on an appropriate buffer, with Lehtonen proposing a 25-foot buffer, and some board members indicating a 35-foot buffer might be more palatable.

Lehtonen said San-Ken Homes designs homes custom-built, and doesn’t always know where the potential homeowner might want to place their home or outbuildings, and said he would rather not shrink the potential building area more than necessary.

“You’re entitled to submit what you want to submit,” MacMartin replied. “If you’re looking for feedback from the board, I think you’ve got it.”

Some residents asked questions or gave statements to the board. Robert Kahn asked the board to question what benefit the application had to the neighborhood.

“I think if you ask the people in this room, they would have a problem with it,” Kahn said, indicating the neighbors who attended the hearing.

Jennifer Beck, a member of the town’s Conservation Commission, said the property was considered a priority in the town’s strategic land assessments, and that the Conservation Commission would have been interested in purchasing it, if it had the funds to do so.

Beck asked that a catalog of plants and animals be done on the property – a process which Lefebvre said had been done as part of the wetlands crossing process – and suggested wetland mapping had been done during dry months and wasn’t comprehensive. She also requested restrictions be placed on the lot to prevent the use of salt, pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, and limit snowplowing to not overtax natural drainage.

“So as you consider requests, please think of this as a development on conservation land, and let that be your guiding principle for decisions,” Beck said. “While this advice might seem excessive by some, it’s pretty standard fare throughout the towns and cities in our state. If a mistake is made on a building, if can be corrected. if you screw up our water quality or threaten a natural habitat, the damage is permanent.”

The board directed a third-party review of the application be conducted, and continued the case to its meeting on Feb. 15.

In other items, the board continued two other cases involving multiple developments, at the request of the applicants.

The first was an application by Better Built Homes, on behalf of Roger Chappell, to subdivide a 20-acre lot for a cluster development, featuring 20 homes. 

The board discussed the application briefly, including a discussion on the proposed road through the property. The board determined that the applicant would need to apply for a waiver for an additional 60 feet of road into the interior of the development intended for a turnaround. 

The board agreed, at the request of the applicant's representative, to continue the hearing Feb. 15.

The other case, an application by Willreign Properties for a site plan review of the former Sacred Heart Church and rectory on Maple Street, was also continued, without discussion, at the applicant’s request.

The plan includes two apartments in the former rectory, and three apartments and an office in the church.

That case was also continued to the Feb. 15 meeting.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244, or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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