Nine Lots In Amherst Hills Released For Sale After Funds For Road Completion Placed In Escrow

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Photo: Piqsels.com. Public domain

Report On The Meeting Of The Amherst Planning Board, May 4, 2022

This meeting was held over Zoom and was recorded. The packet for the meeting can be viewed here

Present
Doug Marshall (Chair), Maria Chao, Jack Jemsek, Andrew MacDougall, Thom Long, and Johanna Neumann. Absent: Janet McGowan
Staff: Christine Brestrup (Planning Director), Nate Malloy (Senior Planner), and Pam Field Sadler (Assistant)
Seven members of the public attended.

In this abbreviated Planning Board meeting, the board unanimously agreed to accept a letter from Ted Parker of Tofino Associates, the developer of the Amherst Hills subdivision off  Station Road, stating that Tofino will deposit $50,000 in escrow to assure that the roads and drainage in the subdivision will be completed so that the town can accept them as public ways. The $50,000 represents twice the amount that Town Engineer Jason Skeels estimated for the work to be done. The building commissioner is now able to release the nine undeveloped lots from the restrictions on building permits and sewer hook-ups  so Tofino can sell them.

The escrow agreement will replace the 2019 three-party agreement between the town, Tofino, and Greenfield Savings Bank that specified a bond of $288,000 for completion of the roads. Town Planner Chris Brestrup said the town attorney Joel Bard approved the escrow agreement. Skeels has approved the work done over the past year and issued a list of remaining items to be completed.

Although the agreement states that the road work will be completed by December 31, 2022, board members and residents say they hope it will be done over the next few months. After the work is complete, Tofino will ask the town council to accept the roads as public streets. 

James Masteralexis, a representative for Amherst Hills residents, said he is happy with the work done so far and agrees that the escrow agreement is a good solution for assuring that the rest of the work is completed. However, in his review of the original 2003 plan for the subdivision, he noted that two detention ponds were to be surrounded by fences, but no fencing has been mentioned by Skeels or Tofino. He asked for clarification, since he does not want the homeowners’ association to be responsible if anyone is hurt near the ponds.

Parker said that although fencing for retention ponds was common 20 years ago, since then it has been found to be a barrier to wildlife and to interfere with pond maintenance. He said he cannot remember fencing of retention ponds being required in the last 15 years. Both retention ponds are located on private property.

Rather than delaying agreement on the dispensation of the nine lots, the Planning Board recommended removing the requirement for fences from the original agreement, but asked Brestrup to consult with Bard to make sure it is legitimate to do so. Building Commissioner Rob Morra said he thinks Skeels has the authority to approve the removal of the fencing requirement.

In other business, the public hearing about the Demolition Delay Bylaw (Article 13) was delayed until May 18 because of input needed from the Community Resources Committee and the Historical Commission. 

A hearing on a site plan review and special permit request for changes at Amherst Research Park, 463 West Street, was delayed until June. The Planning Board extended the 65-day limit from when the application was submitted to when the hearing was scheduled due to the need to further survey the site. The original 65 days expires in mid May.

The meeting was adjourned at 7:52 p.m. The next meeting of the Planning Board is scheduled for May 18 at 6:30.

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