Thursday, January 26, 2012

Wilsons Win Approval For Majestic Oaks Subdivision On South Main

The Planning and Zoning Commission last night unanimously approved a large subdivision off of South Main Street, near the Durham town line. 32 lots were originally applied for, but the developer reduced it by one in response to concerns expressed by the Conservation Commission. The developer also eliminated a narrow strip of deeded open space which neighbors were concerned would attract undesirable activities.

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.

Katchen Coley, speaking on behalf of the Conservation Commission (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."


Anonymous said...

I don't understand how P&Z approved this. I thought the regulations no longer allowed rear lots. Oh yeah it's Ralph Wilson.

Anonymous said...

The City must have forgotten Mr. Wilson's short and unfinished obligation to the constituents of the South Fire District as Fire Commissioner for the mere purpose of self gain.
His selfish actions for financial gain eliminated the required installation of an underground water source as part of his proposed sub development during his time in office as Commissioner, his tenure ended in resignation shortly after he succeeded with his actions.
Shame on the Fire Commission and the town for not enforcing the rules and allowing political direction to dictate public safety.
The constituents are once again used and disregarded for one mans dreams and a political parties ignorance to the betterment of a community.

Anonymous said...

I can't imagine why someone would even want to live in this subdivision - potential problems with wetlands/drainage, such close proximity to huge power lines and voltage and rear lots.

I thought people on P&Z would stand up against such ill-planned least that's what they claimed during election season.

Again, money wins.

Anonymous said...

South Fire signed off on this subdivision with no reference to your claims of an underground water source being mandated. IF these were needed the current South Fire Commissioner should have said something. Mary Bartolotta merely sat in the audience and the fire chief signed off on the subdivision so how do you expect PZ to do otherwise?

Anonymous said...

Just because you would not choose to live in the subdivision does not mean its not legal. Over 1/2 of the land will be given to open space. Great plan.

Anonymous said...

there was a fire over the weekend in a part of the town that has no water, I think the house burned to ground there should be water with this many houses going in.

Anonymous said...

"...Over 1/2 of the land will be given to open space. Great plan.

It's all open space right now. Great logic.

Anonymous said...

All nimy arguments. If you want open space next to you buy the empty lots around you yourself.

Anonymous said...

To Anon. 8:06
The South Fire District cannot legally force Atty. Wilson to install hydrants or underground water tanks.All that is required is access for fire apparatus to the properties.