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Richmond Planning Board Meeting June 8, 2021


Board Approves Eight-Unit Subdivision


By Cynthia Drummond for BRVCA


An application for the eight-unit Highlander Estates subdivision at 3 Carolina Nooseneck Road cleared a major hurdle Tuesday with the Planning Board’s approval of the master plan. The remote hearing was a continuation of a public hearing that began on May 25.


Submitted by developer William McIntosh IV, the proposal calls for six market-priced and two affordable housing units on a 4.5-acre parcel. The board denied the application in April 2020, citing its incompatibility with the town’s comprehensive plan. McIntosh appealed the decision to the State Housing Appeals Board, which remanded the application to the Planning Board.

Board members had already reviewed the draft decision to approve the application, with several conditions, written by Town Solicitor Karen Ellsworth and Town Planner, Sean Lacey.

A persistent concern is the drinking water supply and the impact that new wells for the densely-built subdivision might have on neighboring properties. Ellsworth addressed those concerns by including an amendment to the conditions for approval.

“A hydrogeological analysis must demonstrate that installation and operation of four wells on the site will have no negative impact on surrounding properties, including, but not limited to, lowering of groundwater elevation or loss of well yield during the seasonal low groundwater period, and that sufficient water will be available for all eight dwelling units,” she stated.

Michael Resnick, the attorney representing the developer, proposed changing Ellsworth’s amendment to allow greater flexibility regarding the number of wells in the subdivision, which might be fewer than the four in the plan.

“I think it does the same thing, but it doesn’t particularly tether the applicant to four wells, and if there’s a way to accomplish the same flow and service with less than four, in my personal opinion, I think that would be better language,” he said.

Resnick also requested that the draft be amended to ensure that his client would not be responsible for the conditions of existing wells on nearby properties.

“… while this [hydrogeological] study is meant to determine that us drilling wells, us serving those eight units will have no impact on the surrounding property and the residential property, I don’t think that it’s fair or appropriate for this condition to say that sufficient water will be available for all eight dwelling units and the abutting residential property, because my client’s not going to guarantee that the neighbor’s well works forever if there’s a condition or issue that’s outside of our control that has nothing to do with we have done on site or the draw that we’ve made from the water source,” he said.

Board member Nancy Hess said her priority was ensuring that there would be enough water for the new units and neighboring homes.

“We’re increasing the density over the R-3 zoning district ,which is based upon one house for every three acres, and that R-3 zoning was developed a long time ago to assure that there will be adequate water quantity and quality in people’s houses as the town develops,” she said.

During the public comment period, abutter Lisa Tefft said she worried that the subdivision would impair her water supply.

“I do feel that there’s going to be problems with the water, regardless…if this does continue on and if there’s eight units on this hill,” she said. “Rich [another neighbor] and I have both learned how to control our water usage. I mean, I sometimes take showers at one o’clock in the morning, so it’s all a matter of supply and demand and trying to control it, and if there’s eight more units, potentially 16, 18, 20 people up on the hill, all trying to get ready for work and school in the morning, everybody’s going to be using the water at the same time.”

“We share your concerns over the well issue,” board Chairman Philip Damicis said. “That’s the reason we’re doing the hydrogeological study, and we’ll see what the results are. It’ll undergo a peer review by the town’s engineers and we’ll address it when we get the results.”

Board members voted unanimously to approve the master plan. The developer will now seek preliminary approval for the project.


Cynthia Drummond


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