Johnsburg Town Hall
Residents of Iroquois Trail and Chatiemac Road turned out in force at the Johnsburg Planning Board meeting Monday, Feb. 27 to voice concerns about the proposed Ward Hill Subdivision, a 12-lot development on a 240-acre parcel in the Iroquois/Chatiemac neighborhood.
About a dozen residents, many of them from the Chatiemac Homeowners Association, grilled project engineer James Easton for more than 90 minutes, citing concerns ranging from stormwater runoff issues to the potential impact on brook trout habitat in the stream that runs through the property.
The comments came during a public hearing that was a continuation of a public hearing into the project carried over from the January meeting of the Planning Board.
Resident William Bryant sent an 11-point letter to the Planning Board detailing concerns that included the grade of a proposed access road, the size of proposed stormwater retention ponds, a logging easement proposed in the plan and a lack of specifics about fire prevention plans. He attended the meeting as well, reiterating the points made in his letter.
“Those of us who live downhill are very concerned about runoff from the development,” Bryant said. “And there’s nothing mentioned about fire protection. Does the town require that as part of the plan?”
Planning Board Chairwoman Dottie Osterhout informed Bryant that as part of the review process, the Planning Board would consult with the fire and emergency response companies that cover that area of the town and get their recommendations regarding appropriate accommodations for fire and EMS coverage and would factor those into any final approval.
“Will future expansion be allowed?” asked resident Ellen Smith. “What about bridges over the creek? Will there be more clearing of trees? What hours will there be construction and for how long?”
Things such as construction schedules can be addressed as conditions of approval, Planning Board member Cort Nester said.
“That’s why public comment is so important,” Nester said.
Resident Paul Donnelly wondered about the impact the project would have on roads in the neighborhood.
“How about the damage caused by construction vehicles?” Donnelly asked.
Easton explained that the construction companies would have to repair any damage done to the town roadways. Inspections are conducted weekly, Easton said and he advised residents to monitor the condition of the roads and to take pictures.
“You’d be surprised but there are a lot of laws in place that address many of your concerns,” Easton said.
Osterhout asked Easton about blasting as part of the project, something that more than one resident had mentioned as a concern.
“There’ll be no blasting with this project,” Easton assured the gathering. “I’ll even agree to that as a condition of approval.”
The questions continued and Easton offered technical details of the project, often referring to maps, schematics and reports and indicated that his firm, WSP Sells Engineering, has an ongoing dialogue with the town’s engineering consultant, Clough Harbour to work through many of the questions that the residents had posed.
After 90 minutes of give and take, Chairwoman Osterhout closed the dialogue but urged the board to keep the public hearing open until the next meeting of the board on March 26. The review process will likely stretch several months as the engineers for the town and for the project work through technical aspects of the proposal.
“Large subdivisions are not quickly approved,” Osterhout told the crowd.
At the beginning of Monday’s project discussion, Osterhout asked Easton if the applicant would waive the 90-day time limit for the Planning Board to review the project. The applicant agreed.
The Board is expected to take up the matter again at its March meeting when it is expected that it will have the applicant’s response to a 25-point list of concerns issued by the town’s engineer.
In the meantime, Osterhout said, interested parties with concerns or comments regarding the project could detail those concerns in writing and send them to the Town Hall for consideration in the Planning Board’s project deliberations.
In other action, the Board unanimously approved a special use permit for Whitewater Challengers and manager Marko Schmale to operate a zip line adventure course at property recently purchased behind the rafting company’s North River location off Route 28.
During a public hearing on the permit application, John Silvestri representing a neighbor, Denise Jillions, expressed his client’s concerns about the use of lighting as part of the project and the potential for excessive noise. But after touring the property with Schmale Monday morning, Silvestri said he was satisfied that lighting at the property wouldn’t be an issue since Schmale did not intend to install extra lighting as part of the project.
Noise was still a concern, he said, and asked the board to consider restricting the hours of operation for the business from a proposed 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. down to 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
Schmale offered a compromise of a 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. schedule, and Silvestri said he believed his client would be satisfied with that.
“And that’s 8 p.m. finishing the course not starting at 8 p.m.?” Osterhout asked.
The Board also unanimously approved the site plan application for Izzy’s Market & Deli, planned for Main Street in North Creek. The business will operate a deli and market on the first floor of the two-story building and offer retail space for lease on the second floor with an office and restrooms to the rear of the structure. The deli is scheduled to open in time for the Whitewater Derby in May.
The next meeting of the Johnsburg Planning Board is scheduled for 7 p.m., March 26 at the Tannery Pond Community Center in North Creek.