Planning Board Denies Transfarmation 2 Application

      AMHERST – At the July 23 Planning Board meeting, chair Arnie Rosenblatt explained that the public hearing was to determine whether the new Transfarmation application for the Jacobson farm on Christian Hill Road was sufficiently different from the first application.  Rosenblatt explained if the Board decides the new application is not sufficiently or materially different, the application process ends. 

      After a lengthy ZOOM meeting discussion, the board voted against the motion to accept the changes as material in the TransFarmations 2  application presented by Carter Scott and Transfarmations, Inc. The planned residential development originally proposed under the Integrated Innovative Housing Ordinance (IIHO) contained 64 housing units which included tiny houses.  Four tiny houses were removed from the plan.

      Additionally, the road layout was changed to reduce the number of linear feet of roads.  Pennichuck Water after conducting a pump test determined that public water would not be economically feasible.  Concluding that 60 housing units would be best served by private wells.  A traffic study by Stephen G. Pernaw and Co. determined that the traffic generated would not significantly alter traffic in Amherst.

      Planning board members questioned Carter Scott on whether what he presented was sufficiently different from the original application.

      Christy Houpis noted that the number of workforce housing units went from 17 to 26.  When asked what the total number of bedrooms was in the new application, Scott said he didn’t have that information with him.  Concerning the traffic study, Houpis commented that the original application didn’t even have a traffic study included and now you have added one.

      Mike Dell Orfano noted that the application is proposing 26 workforce housing units which is, 50% more than the first application.  Dell Farno also commented that the reduction in the number of roofs in the proposal reduces the number of impervious surfaces.  Should the application move forward, Scott should emphasize the positive effect this has on the hydrogeology.

      Brian Coogan asked Scott what he considers to be materially different in this plan.  Scott replied that the changed number of units, location of buildings, roadways and water supply all comprise significant differences.

      Scott explained to Marilyn Peterman that the workforce housing met only 2 of the criteria for workforce housing, price point and deed restriction.

      Arnie Rosenblatt asked about the farming aspect of the application.  Scott commented that there seemed to be resistance to the farming aspect of the plan, so the second application doesn’t seek approval for farming.  He said the present application is now considered a sustainable community not an agrihood.

Public comments via ZOOM.

      Tony Yakovakis stated that removing 4 units isn’t a large difference. And the total amount of land is still the same with private wells.

Tim Kachmar agreed that removing 4 tiny houses was not materially different.  He believes that critical information was missing from the application.      Tom Quinn said that adding a water study and traffic report are inconsequential. He said that none of these alterations to the proposal have anything to do with the reason the initial application was denied.  The Board discussion ensued.  Bill Stoughton stated that the Jacobson II plan is not materially different from the initial application.  The application does

not address concerns that led to the denial of the original application: namely, safety and traffic issues. The submitted traffic study shows an adverse effect from the traffic projected for the revised application.

Mike Dell Orfano believes the new application offers the town workforce housing which, meets the spirit of the law and is a significant contribution to this town’s fair share.  He also thought the reduction in road area was material because it reduces the hydrogeological effects of road runoff. The reduced number of roofs reduces the impervious surfaces and thus the amount of runoff. 

      Dell Orfano considers the proposed development significantly better than what would have been done just as a grid subdivision, which he thinks would be a travesty. TransFarmations 2 should be allowed to proceed. 

      Marilyn Peterman said the new application changed the number of units, in particular the affordable housing units. The road changes from 1,200 to 800 feet, which is a material difference, with grades changing and the elimination of waivers – also a material difference. She noted again the increase in workforce housing from 17 to 26 units as a material difference. Peterman said private onsite wells, instead of public water supply, was a material difference. She stated the impact to the community is not usually considered a material difference. 

      Chris Yates explained that the proposed density of the site has been an issue for the community, this has not been addressed in this new application. He continued that the removal of the four tiny homes did not address the issue and he did not see it as a material change.

      Cynthia Dokmo stated that she was a big fan of affordable housing and thinks that type of housing enhances the town but has the new application met the burden of proof that this new plan is materially different.  It isn’t.  Fewer houses being proposed, the units are slightly moved around on the site, and a proposed shorter road and the applicant did not address the total number of bedrooms proposed.  Dokmo did not think the applicant had met the burden for those reasons. 

      Dwight Brew noted there were changes between the first and second plans; however, when he reviewed the two plans he does not view the second plan as being sufficiently different from the first application. He also doesn’t see that the concerns voiced the last time were addressed in this application, even with the additional supplied data.

      Mike Dell Orfano moved to accept the changes as material in TransFarmations 2 over TransFarmations 1. Marilyn Peterman seconded. 

       Roll call: Mike Dell Orfano – aye; Brian Coogan – nay; Marilyn Peterman – aye; Cynthia Dokmo – nay; Dwight Brew – nay; and Bill Stoughton – nay. 2-4-0; motion defeated. 

      The second motion by Cynthia Dokmo moved that the applicant has not carried its burden of proving that second application is materially different from the first. Dwight Brew seconded. 

       Roll call: Mike Dell Orfano – nay; Brian Coogan – aye; Cynthia Dokmo – aye; Dwight Brew – aye; Bill Stoughton – aye, and Marilyn Peterman - nay. 4-2-0; motion carried. 

Compiled from July 23, 2020 Planning Board ZOOM minutes






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