Thursday, January 26, 2012
Wilsons Win Approval For Majestic Oaks Subdivision On South Main
Ralph Wilson, a land use attorney who has represented many developers before Planning and Zoning, was this time representing his own family, which owns 74 acres of land in Middletown and another 10 acres adjacent to it in Durham. The Wilsons in 2005 received approval for a 25-lot subdivision, he told the Commission that this approval was valid through 2019. The approved plan has conservation easements on many lots, but has no designated open space.
Wilson said that following a suggestion from City Planner Bill Warner, he decided to draw up new plans for a 32-lot subdivision, using the City's "clustered, open space" guidelines. These guidelines allow for the creation of more lots, as long as they are smaller and a significant portion of the total land is set aside as open space.
The new application would provide 26 acres open space, to be donated to the City as a nature preserve. The open space was laid out as a somewhat contiguous block of land, and Wilson said the development as a whole would be sensitive to nature, "We're looking to keep as many trees as possible."
The application was of interest to many, as about 25 neighbors and other concerned Middletown residents attended the meeting. Most of the neighbors spoke against the application, raising concerns about fire protection, adverse effects of nearby high-voltage transmission lines, excessive water run-off onto properties of lower elevation, effects on wells, and others.
Eye article), asked that the open space around the wetlands be expanded to reduce its isolation from the majority of the open space. Coley said that the spotted salamanders and wood frogs use the pools for mating, but spend most of their lives in the nearby forest habitat. Marcy Klattenberg presented photos of amphibian egg masses in vernal pools on the property.
Wilson told the Commission that in response to the concerns of the Conservation Commission, he would add one of the lots to the open space donated to the city.
Several neighbors expressed concern about the safety of their homes if there was a trail nearby. William Peddle said to the Commission, "The [parking] lot and walking trail pose potential dangers to residents and can become the perfect playground for peeping toms, prowlers, perverts, punks, pedophiles, pilferers, predators, and even people polluting the area by dropping off their garbage."
Wilson dismissed the neighbors' concerns. He said that both the Inland Wetlands Commission, in 2005, and his engineer had walked the property, and found no unmarked watercourses. He emphatically rebutted concerns about the powerlines, providing extensive documentation that there were no substantiated health risks.
Wilson was infuriated by the negative comments about his proposal, saying of the neighbors, "They want open space behind them ... that's not the way life works." Of their concerns about undesirable elements using the open space, he said that this was not his problem, "[It's] not in my domain, once it's given over [to the city]".
However, Wilson agreed to a suggestion from the Commission that the small strip of open space at the south of the property be eliminated, and that the trail instead pass along the sidewalk of the subdivision. This would significantly reduce foot traffic behind existing houses.
After the meeting, Wilson told The Eye that he had spent a lot of money developing these new plans and he was proposing a significant gift to the city, was protecting the wetlands, and had moved the houses further away from existing homes. He appeared stunned that his proposal had elicited anything other than gratitude.
For her part, Coley said that the elimination of one lot, and the moving of the trail were good, "From the point of view of the Conservation Commission, the two changes are beneficial."