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South Deerfield condominium project for seniors draws criticism

  • Town residents expressed safety and water runoff concerns about a senior housing project at the base of Mount Sugarloaf, on Sugarloaf Street, presented during a Planning Board meeting by Mark Wightman.

  • Town residents expressed safety and water runoff concerns about a senior housing project at the base of Mount Sugarloaf, on Sugarloaf Street, presented during a Planning Board meeting by Mark Wightman.

  • The layout plans for the proposed senior citizen condominiums in South Deerfield. RECORDER STAFF/ANDY CASTILLO



For the Gazette
Wednesday, September 21, 2016

SOUTH DEERFIELD — A proposed senior housing development has ruffled the feathers of residents who live near Sugarloaf Street.

After developer Mark Wightman presented a preliminary plan to build 36 condominium units in a field behind Mountain Road, public comment during a Planning Board meeting earlier this month erupted in fiery opposition based primarily on traffic, conservation and flooding concerns.

According to the plan, each building would be split into two condos, which can be handicapped accessible and could include a single-car garage.

“We’re asking the Planning Board to embrace this,” Wightman said, adding that he is a local resident and cares about the town’s success. “It supports us all from the tax position, and we think it’s a positive.”

The proposed development covers a little over 22 acres on four parcels of land at the base of Mount Sugarloaf, a location concerned residents said could pose water runoff problems, disrupting subterranean water levels and flooding basements of houses already in the area.

In response to those concerns, Tony Wonsesk from SVE Associates, the consulting firm with an office in Greenfield which is the project’s engineers, said the developers have taken runoff into account, and have designed drainage systems based on the mountain’s topography.

According to Wightman, units would only be rentable to people over a certain age — which some argued disguises that the units will be too expensive for town seniors to afford.

“The idea of 55 and older being senior housing is a farce,” Steven Pistrich, a South Deerfield resident, said after the meeting. “Fixed-income seniors are not going to be buying.”

He said the plot should be protected as conservation land because it abuts the mountain.

When asked about the price of the condos earlier during public comment, Wightman said the meeting was not the right time to talk about financial details.

That opinion was backed up by Planning Board Chairman John Waite, who reiterated that the board is charged only with upholding the town’s bylaws as far as logistics are concerned — it cannot just say “no.” He said landowners are within their rights to divide up property for units.

While opposition to the development ran high, there were also a few residents who said they believe it is a good idea, mainly because of the town’s financial state.

“This town needs growth,” said resident Sharyn Paciorek. “We’ve been at a standstill for so long.”

Resident Jeff Upton agreed and said it is a good deal for the town because the project will bring in revenue.

“There’s a lot of emotion tonight,” he commented after the meeting. “Without any kind of growth, taxes will go up. We need growth. Deerfield has been struggling with its budget for at least 20 years.”

Town officials will visit the site Monday before the developer submits a definitive subdivision plan. After that will come public hearings.