CHARLESTOWN – The Charlestown Planning Commission has granted preliminary approval to subdivision plans that will allow the town to preserve a large section of the former Whalerock site as open space.
The sale of the Route 1 land to the town is contingent on the owner, James Barrows, owner of N.I.N. LLC of Brooklyn, Conn., receiving approval to build two single family homes on approximately 7 acres of the 81.9-acre property. The town would purchase the third lot, nearly 75 acres, for $2.1 million
There were two back-to-back meetings Wednesday evening to discuss Whalerock. First, members of the Zoning Board voted to continue their hearings on developer Larry LeBlanc’s application to build two wind turbines on the property. The continuance was needed to allow the town sufficient time to complete its purchase of the land.
Town Council President Thomas Gentz and just one other spectator sat in the gymnasium at Charlestown Elementary School as members voted unanimously in favor of the continuance. The meeting, which was over in 10 minutes, was a sharp contrast to an Aug. 22 public hearing at which 150 residents, most of them opponents of the wind turbine proposal, turned out to urge the town council to buy the land to preserve as open space.
A half hour later, in the council chambers, Gentz looked on again as members of the town’s Planning Commission considered the housing subdivision application.
The subdivision will divide the 81.9-acre parcel bordered by King’s Factory Road and East Quail Run into three lots. One 3.4-acre lot and a second 3.3-acre lot will each be designated for one single family home. The third lot, 74.9 acres, is intended for purchase by the town. The creation of the subdivision will end LeBlanc’s three-year quest to build turbines on the property.
Engineer Christopher Duhamel, who is working on plans for the two housing lots, told the commission that the lots already had access to Route 1, so a new driveway would not have to be built. “There is frontage on King’s Factory Road of about 1,400 feet to the north. There’s also access to Route 1….That is the exact location of where the current driveway is located today,” he explained.
Commission members reviewed the plans and had plenty of questions ranging from how many trees would be removed during construction to whether the project would be in compliance with the designation of that section of Route 1 as a scenic highway.
They finally gave the subdivision, including the third lot the town intends to buy, their preliminary approval, adding several conditions for the two house lots.
Commission Chairwoman Ruth Platner read the list of conditions before the vote.
“Some possible conditions of approval would be that there is no further division or subdivision of those two lots, the lots are to be used for single family residences only, the lots will be created and developed consistent with the stormwater management plan, including that the driveway will remain pervious. There will be a protected buffer along the road 50 feet deep in from the property line, except for the existing road cut, and no cutting or clearing for future road cuts would be allowed along this frontage and buffer, except to remove invasive species,” she said.
In addition, no clear-cutting of trees would be permitted on slopes steeper than 15 percent.
With commission member Connie Baker absent, four members and first alternate Brendan Cleary voted on a motion to grant preliminary approval to the subdivision. Platner, Gordon Foer, Kathryn O’Connor and Jan Knost voted in favor of the motion. Cleary voted “no,” insisting that the town should have held a referendum on the land purchase.
“I don’t believe our community as a whole had a say in what’s going on for a very expensive purchase of a piece of land that I don’t believe is worth $2 million. Morally, I can’t possibly vote in favor of that,” he said.
Gentz said more state approvals were required for the house lots before the town could close on the open space land.
“They have to go for other approvals, and then we can have the closing,” he said, noting that calls by some residents for a referendum would not affect the deal.
“It’s a political statement that people are trying to make,” he said.
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