November 22, 2017
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Locals expected to pack meeting in opposition to 119-unit housing project

By Deborah McDermott, The York Weekly
Updated:

Residents of York Village, the Donica Road neighborhood and beyond are lining up in opposition to a proposed 119-unit condominium complex off York Street on land owned by the Mary McIntire Davis Trust.

The Planning Board will get a preliminary peek at the plans Thursday night, and it is anticipated that dozens of residents will be attending to voice their concerns about traffic safety, stormwater issues and what they see as loss of quality of life.

“This impacts the whole town,” said Betsy Goodwin, a York Street resident whose land abuts the Davis property. “People come here from all over the world and love the atmosphere of this town. I believe the character will change forever with this development.”

This is the third time the Davis family has come before the board with proposals for their 107-acre property. In January, they sought board input for a 113-unit complex, with one access road onto York Street; in May, they returned with a 50-unit complex, again with only the York Street egress.

This time, they are returning with a proposal for 119 units, but the trustees of the trust have entered into a purchase and sale agreement to buy land that will allow for a second egress onto Donica Road. They are at the preliminary, or “sketch plan” phase, when they take input from the Planning Board before returning with a more formal plan.

When they filed these plans in August, Mal Davis, trustee and son of the late Mary Davis, said the family is “trying to be good neighbors. We’ve listened very hard to the Planning Board and to the planning director, and we’re trying to do what they have asked us to do.”

But nearby residents have already voiced their disapproval of the plan. Dozens of people signed a petition earlier this month that was sent to the town’s emergency services including police, fire and ambulance.

They list several safety concerns, beginning with the impact of vehicles coming out of the complex onto York Street, which is used by schoolchildren heading to Village Elementary School, as well as bicyclists and other pedestrians. Donica Road and nearby Raydon Road will also be impacted, they say. These are both minor roads that were not designed to carry more than the local traffic, opponents say.

A flyer was distributed to Donica Road residents and posted on the York Community Dialogue Facebook page urging people to attend Thursday’s hearing. In addition to safety issues, the flyer also raises the specter of reduced property values if the access road is built.

A key concern of Betsy Goodwin as well as others is the steepness of the road that will have to be built from York Street — not dissimilar to the grade of both Village Elementary School and Raydon Road. If it were to be built “as is,” the grade would be 9 percent. To be a town road, the grade must be at a minimum 6 percent grade; to be a private subdivision road, it would need to be at 7 percent grade. In any event, the Planning Board will have to grant a waiver, something residents say they will fight.

“Raydon and Village Elementary, those are two nightmares,” said attorney Greg Orso, representing Goodwin. “Can you imagine a third road at that grade trying to shoehorn onto York Street?”

He and others also pointed to a subdivision regulation, which states “the vehicular access to the subdivision shall be arranged to avoid traffic congestion of existing local residential streets.”

“Can you imagine making a left turn into the subdivision at any time of the day right now? What about the Columbus Day weekend that just passed, or anytime in July? You’d also be putting a subdivision entrance into a school zone. There’s no way in heck that you can meet that regulation,” he said.

Mal Davis and the other trustees have long said they are essentially between a rock and a hard place. As trustees, he said, they have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure the property in essence makes money for the heirs. Attempts over the years to sell the land to the town have been unsuccessful.

The Planning Board meeting begins at 7 p.m. The Davis property is the second item on the agenda.

 


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