Peterborough Planning Board approves smaller Union Street project

  • The Peterborough Town House STAFF FILE PHOTO BY BEN CONANT

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 10/14/2022 12:17:49 PM

The Peterborough Planning Board approved a scaled-down version of a proposal from Halliday Properties, LLC, for 241 Union St. in Peterborough Oct. 12.

The original proposal was for 34 units of multifamily residential homes, including six workforce housing units, but was reduced to 30 residential units, three of which will be workforce housing, on a 2.799-acre parcel.  

The original proposal included a 30-foot buffer between the proposed development and abutters. Civil engineer Chad Branon of Fieldstone Land Consulting, representing Halliday Properties, explained that because a 30-foot buffer is required by Peterborough’s zoning laws and should remain undisturbed, a new plan was needed.

“You can’t put a building right on a non-disturbance line,” Branon said, adding that the access road to the development was shifted to the north, which allows 20 units on the south side of the property to move farther away from the buffer. This was done, he continued, so that 10 feet of access working space will be available behind the buildings.

A four-unit building on the north side, as well as a six-unit building, will also be set back 10 feet from the buffer, bringing the total units to 3o.   

“The biggest issues with this layout was a reduction in density,” Branon said.

Branon added that construction costs would go up due to the need to step up the foundations to the 20 units – requiring multiple foundations to be poured -- along the south side of the property along the existing terrain.

“We’re not taking the benefit of pouring one foundation,” he said. “We were grading into the 30-foot setback area originally, but that must remain undisturbed now.”

Because of the changes to the plan, Branon said Halliday Properties, owned by Sharon resident Sadie Halliday, was proposing reducing workforce housing from 20 to 10 percent.

“That’s unfortunate, but it’s a byproduct of what we’re dealing with here,” he said. “Ultimately, the math has to work, which is why normally you have additional density. But because of some of these modifications and additional costs, that’s where we are.”

Planning Board Chair Stephanie Hurley said she was pleased with the new design and the 30-unit proposal, but was also disappointed there could not be more than 10 percent of the development for workforce housing.

“There are a number of people who have written letters asking for proof of financial hardship, and I don’t know if that’s something we can ask for,” she said, referring to the need for increased density to make the project feasible financially. “One of the reasons we’re giving this increased density is for workforce housing. So I’m disappointed. Basically it was supposed to be six units and now it’s going to be three. I’m very disappointed.”

Hurley addressed her question about financial hardship to Town Planner Danica Melone, who cautioned the board against asking for proof, saying the board would be “diving into the weeds.”

Branon responded to Hurley, saying that Halliday is disappointed as well. 

“She sits on the workforce housing board,” he said. “But the numbers don’t work anymore. I think it’s great that we have three units. Many developments have zero. It’s a movement in the right direction, but the frustration is shared.” 

The Zoning Board’s standard for the development requires a minimum of 3o feet between buildings and the property line. The buffer can consist of either a vegetative screen, fencing or both, as deemed appropriate by the Planning Board. 

Planning Board members discussed putting fencing one foot from the property line, but ultimately decided against it. Conditions in the board’s approval include approval of road widths and turnarounds by the fire chief and that a note would be added to the plan saying the 30-foot screening buffer would be maintained naturally with no fencing.  

“It meets the law and if it meets the law we can’t say no,” Planning Board member Bill Taylor said.

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