SOUTHWICK – Developers of the former Southwick Country Club property on Tuesday made their first public presentation of plans to build 78 homes there.
Landscape architect Robert Levesque presented plans during a Planning Board site review and special permit hearing for both the west and east sides of the property. The land is divided by College Highway (Route 202).
Levesque showed both traditional and flexible residential development plans, and said the latter is the option preferred by Levesque Associates as well as property owner Fiore Realty and Crestview Construction.
Planning Board Chairman Michael Doherty read letters from the Conservation Committee, Police Safety Officer Sgt. Kirk Sanders, Fire Chief Russell Anderson, Public Works Director Randy Brown and the Historical Commission. All but Anderson recommended the flexible development option. Anderson noted that the road layout in the traditional plan was easier for fire apparatus to traverse.
The Historical Commission supported keeping the golf course’s house-turned-restaurant intact for historical purposes. Plans show the house would not be included in the development.
Levesque said the east side of the property borders College Highway and Tannery Road. A single curb cut is planned for each road, with one cul-de-sac near College Highway and two culs-de-sac off Tannery.
This portion of the development is approximately 73 acres but could expand. Levesque said Fiore Realty is in talks with an adjacent property owner to acquire more land, but he did not elaborate on the size or location of that parcel and whether it would have homes or be open space.
The current plans include 47 lots on the east side and 50-foot frontage from the main roads. The flexible residential development calls for 40 percent open space versus the 10 percent required in a traditional development. Levesque said in addition to that 40 percent, 50-foot barriers were included behind homes that abut other properties. Those barriers will be deeded as such and cannot be built upon. One neighbor asked if that included sheds or decks and Levesque said it did.
Planning Board member Marcus Phelps expressed concern about traffic on both the east and west side of the development. On the east, there would be one entrance from Sunnyside Road as well as two traditional lots with driveways directly on College Highway at the northern end of the property. Phelps was worried about traffic buildup at the intersections of Tannery and College Highway as well as College Highway and Sunnyside. He requested a qualified traffic engineer study and report on the potential traffic and see if the intersections warrant traffic lights, which cost upwards of $200,000 each.
Levesque said he would not recommend spending money on a costly study. He said his company recently performed a similar study in Belechertown and he could provide that information as well as traffic counts.
“It’s an unneeded and unnecessary expense,” Levesque said. “We will do a traffic count, but it makes sense to do it after the preliminary approval so we know what we’re studying.”
Levesque said a general estimate for traffic counts is 10 trips per day per household.
Tannery Road resident Robert Stevens, a former Southwick Planning Board member, raised concerns about the hearing announcement and process, but endorsed the project itself.
“I’m not opposed to this subdivision,” he said. “I think it’s good for the town.”
Stevens noted that the public hearing notice language called it a subdivision hearing versus the site review and residential flexible development special permit hearing. After much discussion, Doherty said he believed the wording of the hearing was fine and abutters were given notice. The hearing was originally set for April 17 but was continued to April 24 because there weren’t enough members of the Planning Board to convene a meeting last week.
Stevens was also concerned that the plans presented were modified from those originally submitted with the application.
Levesque said it is very common to amend plans based on discussions with the town prior to a hearing. After submitting an application, Levesque said he and his staff meet with the town planner and hold a roundtable discussion with town officials, including police, fire, conservation and others. Levesque said the comments made during that roundtable – which were officially read into the record during the hearing by Doherty – were taken and used to amend the plans so that when the public views them at the hearing they are up to date and have addressed some of the concerns of town officials.
For example, Brown noted that islands are not recommended in a cul-de-sac because of plowing. The original plans included islands, and Levesque removed them from the plans presented Tuesday. He also amended the road widths at the request of Anderson so that fire apparatus could easily pass through the flexible residential development.
Plans on the west side of the golf course include 31 lots.
Hearings on both parts of the project were continued to May 1 in the Land Use Room at Southwick Town Hall.
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