Deerfield senior condo plan on to review process

  • Detail images of plans, currently at the town office building, of a proposed senior housing development at the base of Mount Sugarloaf. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

  • A few "Save our Sugarloaf" signs on Sugarloaf Street, across from a proposed senior housing development at the base of Mount Sugarloaf. RECORDER FILE PHOTO

For the Bulletin
Saturday, January 07, 2017

SOUTH DEERFIELD — Plans to build a 55-and-older condominium development on Sugarloaf Street will receive a peer review to make sure it meets town requirements.

At a Planning Board meeting Tuesday night, members heard a presentation on The Condominiums at Sugarloaf, a proposed 35-building, 70-unit “senior housing residential development,” and unanimously voted to send it out to review.

“We stand at the same position we did during preliminary plans. Everything has gone extremely well, and we have 10 reservations already. As a whole, we’re moving forward,” Futures Unlimited Developer Mark Wightman, the local developer behind the project, said before the meeting.

The proposed development covers five parcels of land and 22.8 acres off Sugarloaf Street and beside Mountain Road. Discussion during the meeting centered around safety concerns and the height of the property’s water table.

If approved, the condos would have a 55-and-older deed restriction and price tag of about $280,000 each, which Wightman said would increase the overall tax base in town by about $300,000. A representative from SVE Associates Tony Wonseski, the project’s engineer, said there won’t be much of a traffic increase on Sugarloaf Street because it’s a senior housing development.

Addressing water runoff concerns, Wonseski said drainage infrastructure will be sufficient and that “we’re trying to keep it low maintenance, but make it work well.”

“Our hope is that our seniors who are living outside of town, (that) this allows them to live downtown,” Wightman said before asking the board for a few waivers to bylaw requirements.

Specifically, he asked to build the development’s two in-roads closer than the town’s 600-foot spacing requirement. According to an information sheet, Wightman asked for a waiver of the bylaw’s 300-foot interval requirement for roadway water drains. Instead, as an information sheet notes, the drains would be “located based on hydrological considerations and not general rules.” Finally, the developer asked for a third waiver on logistical details required for four-way intersections.

The board did not act on the waiver requests, delaying discussions until after the Definitive Site Plan has been reviewed by a third party, which will be paid for by the developer.

Controversy over the project

Since Wightman unveiled his intentions in September of last year, the development has been met with heated opposition from local residents. Tuesday’s meeting was no different.

“Plant corn,” said lifetime Sugarloaf Street resident David White about alternative uses for the land. Over the years, White said he’s seen water “come off the mountain and soil Sugarloaf Street.”

White’s concerns about flooding were echoed by a few neighbors who spoke up during the public comment section of the meeting.

“The town has a 600-foot requirement on the two streets,” he continued. “They do not have to approve the variance. That stops the project dead on arrival.”

Dr. Deborah Henson, a soil scientist and Mountain Road resident, who looked at soil observation holes dug in the property during the project’s preliminary planning phase. Henson said, “as a whole, I was very satisfied with the engineering that’s being done.” However, Henson said there should be “some redesigns of the catch basins,” citing high water table concerns.

In addition to the water table, Henson also said that, because of Mount Sugarloaf, water moves laterally through the property’s sandy soil, creating potential for more problems.

“Just as long as they’ve taken that into account, we’re good,” Henson said. “The project meets the guidelines in the (town) water plan. I hope it’s a credit to the neighborhood.”