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Testimony wraps up over housing development


July 18, 2013
By Chris Maza

chrism@thereminder.com

ENFIELD, Conn. — The Enfield Planning and Zoning Commission wrapped up the discussion regarding a large apartment complex near the Longmeadow border at its July 11 meeting by closing the public hearing after an additional hour and 15 minutes of testimony.

The commission has 65 days from the closing of the hearing to render a decision on whether or not to approve a special permit for the proposed 340-unit multi-family housing development that would consist of 34 apartment buildings, a clubhouse and fitness center with a pool, a maintenance building and a central mail pick-up building.

Longmeadow, Mass., Town Manager Stephen Crane spoke on behalf of the town and submitted a letter thanking Enfield officials for their candor in the matter, but acknowledged that the project could have impacts that could “reduce the quality of life and property values of the Longmeadow residents along Maple Road.”

“It is my hope and request that should these impacts be realized, the town of Enfield will continue to work with the town of Longmeadow to ensure the developer puts forth a good-faith effort to mitigate those impacts,” he wrote.

Several raised issue with the proximity of buildings to abutters living on Maple Road. A berm and landscaping has been planned for the area between the buildings and the Longmeadow abutters and a fence was also discussed, which developers said they would be willing to erect.

Longmeadow, Mass., resident Elayne Ayan appeared before the commission to voice her displeasure with the plans.

“With all of the open space in this project, none of it is used to protect the Longmeadow abutters’ privacy or to ensure that we’re free from lights and noise,” she said.

She asked the commission not to approve the special permit for the project in its current form, urging the developers to reassess its five-phase plan for the development.

“Building No. 7, which is one of the closest to the lot line, is scheduled to be part of phase three. Phase three sounds late in the development, but it is the very first phase of building development,” she said. “I appeal to the builders and the commission to have the project restructured so that the earliest buildings built will not be the ones closest to the abutters. Should anything happen to this and it doesn’t fully get built, I would much rather not have the closest buildings to Longmeadow and to the back yards be the ones to be finished.”

Dan Bergeron, another Maple Road resident, also said he would prefer to see more of a buffer between his land and the buildings in the proposed development, stating that privacy would be an issue with three-story dwellings with decks.

Longmeadow, Mass., Planning Board Chair Walter Gunn also spoke in favor of a larger buffer.

“I consider this project sort of a change of use and I think the way the zoning ordinance was written, it wasn’t thinking too much of the buffers of a large-density project next to single family projects. I would like to see that the buffer maybe is increased between Longmeadow and the apartment project,” he said. “For example, in the project in Vernon [The Mansions at Hockanum Crossing], it looks like 75 to 80 feet of buffer minimum between the South Windsor line and Vernon. I think there could be a little more room here.”

The issue of traffic was also discussed and Gunn told the commission his board felt there was no cause for mitigation at this time because determining traffic patterns of potential residents was impossible to determine.

Ayan, however, said the effect on traffic would be obvious.

“[The Enfield zoning regulation] also says in the special permit criteria that nothing new should conflict with the normal traffic of the neighborhood,” she said. “Regardless of traffic studies that say what size or how many cars can fit on a road, you can’t add hundreds of cars to tiny roads and not affect the normal traffic. It has to happen. We all know that logically.”

Longmeadow, Mass., Selectman Alex Grant also wrote a letter to the commission outlining his concerns, which included traffic.

“The Mayfair Drive [sic] development would place a large number of people and automobiles on streets not suited for heavy traffic. Route 192 and the adjacent streets and roads are all one-lane thoroughfares,” he wrote. “The streets surrounding the proposed development were designed to meet the needs of residents living, by and large, in single family homes, which are the types of residences which occupy most of the space on both sides of the Enfield/Longmeadow town line.”

Ayan and Grant both questioned whether or not the project could be approved at all in accordance with Enfield’s zoning bylaws.

“I would also point to another of your zoning regulations, which requires that your board consider whether ‘The scale and massing of buildings are compatible with those prevalent in the neighborhood particularly in relation to abutting single-family dwellings,’” Grant wrote. This criterion appears to have been written with just this type of project in mind. As [Enfield Zoning and Planning Director] Jose Giner’s June 14 memorandum indicates, single-family residential units abut the Mayfield Drive project to the north, south, and west. Even the existing residential complexes along Mayfield Drive are inconsistent with the dense rental units now being proposed, as they contain far smaller numbers of units, and they consist of condominiums and senior housing units.”

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