The Inland Wetlands Commission (IWC) has scheduled a public hearing for next week on a proposed 23-lot cluster-style residential subdivision in Dodgingtown.
The hearing on The Preserve at Newtown is slated for 7:30 pm on Wednesday, August 27, at Newtown Municipal Center, 3 Primrose Street.
Two development firms are proposing the construction of the subdivision at a 167-acre tract. The project is proposed by developers KASL, LLC, and IBF, LLC. The firms are represented by local developer/builder George L. Trudell.
The cluster-style development is designed to cluster its houses in two separate areas on the sprawling site in seeking to preserve a large amount of undeveloped open space land.
About nine house lots would be created along Robin Hill Road #2, which extends northeastward from Rock Ridge Road near Rock Ridge Country Club.
Another cluster of house lots would be constructed on a proposed new dead end street to be known as Deer Hill Drive extending southeastward from Scudder Road, south of Ferris Road.
By clustering the houses on relatively small lots, the plans would allow 84 acres, or about half of the 167-acre site, to remain undeveloped and protected as open space land.
At an August 18 session, the Board of Selectmen endorsed having the town legally abandon an undeveloped section of Robin Hill Road, which links the paved Robin Hill Road #2 to the paved Robin Hill Road #1.
Robin Hill Road #1 extends from Sugar Street (Route 302), near Ferris Acres Creamery.
The section of Robin Hill Road which the selectmen recommended for abandonment is effectively a trail through the woods which has never been developed into a paved road by the town. Road section abandonment would remove a legal obstacle to creating the proposed Preserve subdivision.
Legislative Council approval would also be needed for road abandonment.
At a recent IWC session, IWC Chairman Mary Curran told agency members that the Preserve subdivision proposal marks a “significant application.”
“I think it will have public interest,” she said of the likelihood that the hearing would attract people seeking more information about the project.
As part of their technical review of the application, IWC members will tour the site to learn how the project’s engineering design would environmentally protect wetlands and watercourses there.
The IWC’s regulatory role is to review development plans with an eye toward requiring measures to environmentally protect wetlands and watercourses.
After such a development project gains IWC approval, it typically is submitted for a planning review by the Planning and Zoning Commission (P&Z). P&Z also holds public hearings on such applications.
The Preserve proposal is different than other subdivision applications in that it seeks approval for the home construction project under the terms of the P&Z’s regulations on cluster housing, also known as the “open space conservation subdivision” (OSCS) rules. The OSCS rules seek to maximize the amount of land at a site that is left undeveloped and preserved as open space.
In the past, virtually all major residential subdivision proposals submitted for town land use agency review involved “large lot” development. Such development commonly included building lots that were at least two acres (R-2) or three acres (R-3), depending upon the residential zone within which a development tract was located.
In 2004, after nearly two years of review, P&Z approved the OSCS rules for cluster housing developments. Those regulations include both zoning rules and planning rules. P&Z later modified the OSCS regulations at the request of developers who said that the regulations needed more flexibility to be workable.
The minimum size for building lots at the Preserve would be 35,015 square feet, which is about four-fifths of an acre. The indigenous zoning in that area is R-2, which would normally require a minimum two-acre building lot.
The Preserve is the largest residential subdivision proposed locally since Sherman Woods, which initially was proposed in 2009.
Sherman Woods has been proposed a cluster-style development, involving 42 house lots on a 158-acre site where 107 acres, or two-thirds of the site, would be preserved as open space. That site is located off Sherman Street, Still Hill Road, Toddy Hill Road and Sugarloaf Road in Sandy Hook.
Sherman Woods received IWC approval in October 2013. But the developer has not yet sought P&Z approval for the OSCS project.
In 2009, Sherman Woods initially was proposed as a conventional large-lot subdivision. But IWC members rejected that design, citing environmental concerns, resulting in the developer filing a court appeal which then took four years to resolve.
The OSCS rules require that at least half of a site be preserved as open space. By contrast, at conventional large-lot subdivisions, at least 15 percent of the site must be preserved as open space.