The ongoing site plan review for the proposed Ward Hill Subdivision took an odd twist at the March 26 Johnsburg Planning Board meeting when the fire chief for the nearest volunteer company informed the board and the applicant that a proposed access road into the subdivision doesn’t make the grade.
Bakers Mills-Sodom Fire Chief Lewis Hitchcock said his company would not respond to the subdivision if the grade of the access road exceeded 8 percent and the width of the road wasn’t at least 22 feet, regardless of what the town code said.
“Twenty foot is too narrow,” Hitchcock said. “I won’t put fire protection in there.”
The town code requires roads to limit grades to 12 percent and requires roads to be at least 20 feet wide. Project engineer James Easton said that he was designing the project to meet the requirements set forth in the town code, specifically, no more than a 12 percent grade for the access road and a width of 20 feet.
“I’m designing to town code,” Easton said. “Town code says 12 percent.”
After some back and forth between Hitchcock, the board and the engineer, Hitchcock grew more animated and prepared to leave the meeting, but not before restating his position.
“It’s in our minutes,” Hitchcock said. “The town says we don’t have to go anywhere unsafe. And over 8 percent is unsafe. I’m not going to argue with you. That’s how it is. Deal with it.”
With that, Hitchcock stormed out of the meeting.
For their part, board members appeared unfazed by Hitchcock and his position regarding fire coverage for the proposed subdivision.
“We’ve had an issue with this fire company on one other project,” Planning Board Chair Dottie Osterhout said. “We’ll work with other fire companies. There’s mutual aid.”
Residents of neighboring Iroquois Trail and Chatiemac Road attending the meeting expressed concern about allowing a project to progress without a clear plan for fire protection.
“If houses up the hill go up and the fire spreads, my house goes up, too,” one resident said.
“We would never approve something that didn’t have fire protection,” Planning Board member Cort Nester assured them.
Osterhout said the board has used alternate methods to assure fire protection for subdivisions where fire responders couldn’t or wouldn’t access the subdivision.
“For example, with one we required each home to have a sprinkler system,” Osterhout said.
The Ward Hill Subdivision proposal calls for 12 lots on a 200-plus acre parcel adjacent to Chatiemac Road and Iroquois Trail. The board didn’t resolve the fire protection question and deferred discussion of that and other issues related to the site plan review until a workshop scheduled for 6:30 p.m., April 12 at Tannery Pond Community Center.
The workshop meeting is open to the public, Osterhout said, but there will not be an opportunity at the workshop for the public to ask questions. Nor will the board be able to take any action at the workshop.
In other activity, David Webb presented the board with a proposal for what he termed a “glamorous camping” or “glamming” venture and outdoor educational facility limited to four sites with a dining area and gazebo on a parcel located at 90 Armstrong Road. The parcel has been in Webb’s family since his youth, he said, and was a place where he learned to appreciate the Adirondacks and all the natural splendor of the region.
“I want to give something back,” Webb said, “and help people come to enjoy the area that I’ve grown to appreciate so much.”
The camp, dubbed Camp Orenda, would offer a guided experience in Adirondack outdoor adventure to small groups of no more than eight clients at a time, Webb said. It would be low impact on the environment and would incorporate a “leave no trace” philosophy.
The project will require a special use permit and the Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the proposal during its April 23 meeting.
Thirteenth Lake Road resident Leslie Clement presented the board with plans for North River Hobby Farm. Clement described the business as a place where people could come and enjoy scenic gardens, where there’ll be chickens for kids to feed and where you could take tomatoes and herbs from the farm’s vegetable garden and turn them into something delicious to eat, all in the same visit. The business will incorporate a roadside farm stand as well.
“It’ll be an authentic Adirondack experience,” Clement said, but stressed that it was not a restaurant.
The board will consider Clement’s site plan application at its April 23 meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. in the downstairs meeting room at Tannery Pond Community Center.