50 Condos Proposed for Silver Lake Rd.
Update 5-18-21: Planning Board Cancels 4-20 Public Hearing
For at least the third time the Planning Board noticed a public hearing for this project but canceled the hearing at the meeting. They again sent letters to abutters and posted the notice but they allowed only the developer to speak then canceled the public hearing without allowing abutters or town residents to speak. The board claimed that this was done because the project details were not complete.
This explanation does not stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny however since the limited level of detail on the plan set was known in advance of providing notice of a public hearing. In addition, it is important that resident's and abutter's input is taken into consideration prior to the board making decisions about a project. At the April 20th meeting, it seems the board chose to make key decisions about this project without considering input from the many abutters and residents who were in attendance and who prepared comments.
It is disrespectful for the Board to notice a public hearing and have residents arrange their schedules and spend their evening at a Planning Board meeting, only to have the hearing canceled at the last minute for dubious reasons. What would have been the harm in allowing those who set aside time to attend provide information to the Board to assist in their decision making?
Decisions were made at the meeting without the input of Town residents, these decisions have negative implications for the process. First, the Board seemed to vote to allow waivers for the construction of the access road to the site. This access road has been an issue since the project was proposed because of the steep grades on the site. The Planning Board has indicated on several occasions that they wanted to see a plan submitted without waivers to see if a compliant access road could even be built. The developer submitted FOUR plan sets attempting to prove that they could build a compliant access road. Their last attempt at a compliant road was submitted on 1/28/21.
HollisWatch engaged an independent engineer who reviewed this design and noted several non-compliances. At that time the Town Engineer incorrectly indicated that the submitted plan was compliant. This was subsequently disproved in the attached, independent report for many reasons, e.g. overly steep grades, etc. Additionally, the Town Engineer did not include the fact that the proposed, closed drainage system itself requires a waiver.
Without ever considering these challenges to the developer's non-compliant plan, the Planning Board allowed the developer to claim that waivers were needed to move the road further from abutters or the brook. This specious argument neglects the fact that a road up the hill cannot be built at all without waivers. Denial of the waivers could force the developer to downsize the project, so why is the Board not pressing the developer to do so?
Unbelievably, without even addressing the serious concerns raised by a licensed, independent engineer and Town residents, the Board seemed to vote 4-2 to allow waivers for the construction of the road. In essence, the Board allowed this fifty-unit condo development to be built when it is clear that the proposed road can not comply with our regulations without waivers from the planning board. Additionally, issuing waivers for the road does not help abutters or alleviate the traffic or environmental concerns because had no waivers been issued, the project could have been downsized. The Planning Board is responsible for allowing this fifty-unit condo development to proceed with a non-compliant access road.
In addition, the Planning Board chose not to allow public input when deciding which additional, site studies to require of the applicant. It is not clear why they felt that listening to the abutter concerns was not important at this stage or that a full plan set was needed before they could listen to residents. As a result of this failure to hold the noticed public hearing, several poor decisions were made without public input.
For example, one poor decision was the failure to require a historic site analysis. The developer claimed that they were unaware of material of historic value on site. By not allowing the public to speak, the planning board allowed this claim to go unchallenged. In fact, there was a historic dam and mill pond in the area. By preventing public input, the Planning Board failed to require a historic site analysis. Had they availed themselves of the collective knowledge of abutters and Town residents, the decision likely would have been different.
Water issues are a significant concern for abutters, but they were denied an opportunity to advocate for a stronger than usual testing program at the meeting. They were not given the chance to advise the board about wells that have dried in the area and why a more stringent than usual well test is needed. In fact, abutters have privately expressed significant water concerns. They could have shared this information with the Board if they were permitted. The Planning Board's claim that the plan set was not complete certainly does not justify putting off these important issues or allowing the project to progress without having the opportunity for abutters and residents to express themselves. Who benefited from the Planning Board's decision to cancel the noticed public hearing?
It is disappointing to see the important processes of the Planning Board degraded and explained away with strained reasoning. The role of the Planning Board should be to represent the interests of abutters, Town residents and developers fairly. Prior precedents of fairness and respect for the public's legal right to due process must be preserved. Without basic respect for the rule of law, we will continue to see poor decisions and unfair outcomes–outcomes that are favorable primarily to development interests.
Please write to the Select Board and express your desire for a change at the Planning Board. It is important that all members of the Board prioritize fairness and respect for Town residents in the future. Select Board members can be reached by email by requesting distribution to them via email@example.com
The report below explains oversights of regulations made by the town engineer in arriving at his conclusion that the developer submitted compliant plans. It also documents instances where he has contradicted his own prior positions. In addition it points out omissions from his reference to engineering highway safety guidelines. It is incumbent on the planning board to accept the conclusions of the independent third party engineer who has explained the non-compliances with the proposed roadway design. Please read the attached report and tell the planning board not to grant waivers for this project. The developer has not shown that they can provide a design that meets Hollis requirements without waivers. The planning board has requested such a design and the developer has not produced it.
The developer for this project has made four attempts to present a compliant roadway design for the construction of 50 condos near Toddy Brook Road. The town engineer issued a report indicating that the fourth plan complies with cut and fill requirements. However, when HollisWatch enlisted our own NH civil engineer, several non-compliances and safety concerns were identified. The Planning Board chose to dismiss our engineer’s report based on a contorted interpretation of our regulations as presented by the town engineer. He incorrectly claims that the maximum grade at intersections only applies where a stop sign would be placed. There is NO support for this position in the roadway regulation. See the requirement below. How do you interpret this?
Why would the Planning Board choose to accept such a contrived position? You can email to remind them that interpretation of the zoning ordinance is their responsibility, not the town engineer’s. They should interpret the language as it is written. (Stop signs are not mentioned!) Planning board members can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Planning Board has again declined to schedule a public hearing on this project, even though it has been in the design review phase since August of 2020 and the public has never been allowed to speak. How can the Planning Board claim to be responsive to the input from abutters and Town residents if it chooses not to allow them to speak? How does such a policy serve the interests of our town? You can explain your thoughts to our elected Select board who may be more receptive to public input at email@example.com.
Hopefully, we can encourage citizens throughout town to attend Planning Board meetings and to participate in public hearings. High density developments such as this one affect the quality of life we all enjoy here in Hollis.The next Planning Board meeting is on Tuesday, March 16th at 7:00 via Zoom.
Update 2-7-2021 Hollis Watch enlisted a civil engineer licensed in New Hampshire to review the plans submitted by the developer on 1-28-21. The engineer's report identifies three items that are NOT COMPLIANT with Hollis regulations and present safety concerns. The developer has not submitted a compliant design as the Planning Board requested.
Update 2-7-2021 Report on compliance issues with the developer's plans submitted on 1-28-21. This report explains the regulations and the proposal in layman's terms so that everyone can understand this process. There are at least eight problems which need to be addressed. Since the developer cannot show that a compliant road can be constructed for a project as intense as this, please advise the Planning Board that waivers for this proposal are not in the spirit of the regulation and would only serve the developer's interest.
Update 2-5-2021 The developer submitted another set of plans with compliance issues. Full report to follow soon
Do you think these plans submited
1-28-2021 are compliant?
The Town engineer's report only considered cut and fill requirements. The Planning Board requested that a plan requiring no waivers be submitted but the engineer was directed to look at cuts and fills only. Why wasn't he directed to see if the proposed roadway is compliant with the other Hollis engineering requirements?
Update 12-11-2020 The developer continues to work with the town engineer and is planning on submitting a 4th version of this proposal soon.
Do you think these plans are compliant?
Update 10-16-2020 The developer has submitted a fourth set of plans which were stamped on 10-6-2020. These plans have many compliance issues. A detailed report is posted below. Town residents deserve to hear the developer's positions on these items.
These plans received 10-6-2020 still have many compliance issues
Please tell the planning board to withhold approval until these issues are addressed by the developer
Detailed report of Non-compliance with Ordinance and Regulations including slope maps and road profiles based on the proposed plan. Updated on 8/25/2020 to reflect the Developer's submission of 8-18-2020
Update 9-1-2020 The developer has submitted a third set of plans which were stamped on 8-26-2020. The standard deadline for submission is 2 weeks prior to meetings. These new plans should not be discussed until the Sept 15th meeting so that there is time for abutters and town residents to review them!
Do you think the Planning Board should issue waivers for this project?
Why hasn't the developer included the required set aside for a park?
Detailed report of nine non-compliances with Ordinance and Regulations including slope maps and road profiles. identified in the submitted plan. Updated 8-17-2020
Should this proposal be considered for waivers from our ordinances and regulations?
Combined profile of proposed roadway is non-compliant with several provisions of ordinance and regulations
The proposed development:
results in diminished funding for students and increased taxes for residents.
The construction of 50 housing units will result in many new students in our school district as existing Hollis residents move in and sell their single family homes to new families looking to relocate into our good school district. The taxes collected from these lower cost housing units will not cover the cost of the additional expenses to the school district. In addition since these units get sold more frequently than single family homes, their impact on scool budgets is compounded over time.. The long term consequence of this development will be an increase in taxes and a reduction in the quality of education we can provide to the children of Hollis!
will increase the traffic on Silver Lake Road.
The addition of 50 residential units will result in a significant increase in traffic at the site. There are already many condos like this being built just over the border in Amherst and this project is just south of another 52 unit development of this type. The additional traffic is sure to burden present Hollis residents with delays and may even result in a traffic light.
unfavorably impacts the values of other properties in Hollis. Additional housing units will damage the values of existing properties by reducing the quality of life in town with added traffic and loss of rural character.
Proposed New Development May Negatively Impact Witches Brook
Existing Condos, Cobbett Lane (off Silver Lake Rd. just north of proposed new condos), Hollis, NH