Hickory Woods Wins Exemption From Phasing Requirements

Morgan Hollis of the law firm Gottesman and Hollis outlined to the Planning Board the need for the developer of Hickory Woods to receive an exemption from phasing requirements. Hickory Woods proposes to construct 98 units of elderly housing.

The Planning Board approved the development last July, and granted the exemption at its Wednesday, Feb. 12 meeting.

“At the time of the approval, the project was shown in multiple phases,” Hollis said. “The phase one plan has been completed and approved by the staff and development has begun, and phase two is on the agenda to be signed. The base core of non-asphalt that is gravel is down, running all the way from (Route) 102 over to West Road, and the first course of pavement is down for phase one.”

Hollis said the first three units, which serve as models, are under construction, and the registration application with the Attorney General’s office has been made, with approval expected any day.

He said the developer is hopeful they will be authorized to go ahead with binding purchase and sale agreements.

“We have a number of non-binding reservations and deposits,” he added. “We have a lot of interest in the project.”

But as the project was going forward, Hollis said, “we discovered that there was a misunderstanding on our part of the ordinances of the town.”

Hollis said the application was for 100 percent elderly housing, but the provisions of the condominium are that there must be one person who is 55 or older occupying it at all times.

“It doesn’t require that all occupants be over 55,” he explained. “Your ordinance with regard to limitation on phasing has slight separation in that if in fact you’re not 100 percent 55 and up, you’re limited to 15 units per year.”

Hollis noted their calendar year begins in July.

“Those of you in the market know that you begin to get excitement in the spring and you sign people up in the summer and you begin construction in the fall, and then all of a sudden winter hits,” Hollis said. “Our big concern is that from July to July, you might use up your entire quota by the end of the year, so all of the next spring you can’t sell units because you can’t build units, and you have to wait until July to start construction, and that means you can’t sell until the fall cycle.”

He sought an exemption to construct 30 units a year instead of 15.

“We feel that what has to be weighed is what’s going on in town, what’s going on with the project,” he said. “We believe that our project with the restrictions in place for 100 percent, as opposed to 80/20, and the fact that the regulations and the statute and the ordinance require no one under 21 is allowed to live there, is a very tax positive, non-impact to infrastructure. And the size of the units will create limited impact on the town’s infrastructure. We’ve extended the water lines and added some infrastructure that is positive to the town and feel this is a nice project for the town.”

Town Planner Cynthia May said the town attorney had reviewed the declaration of covenant and had noted that if everyone in the development were 55 and older, the exemption “would be pretty much automatic. So this request, which is a modification of that, is at the discretion of the Planning Board. In my perspective, it makes more sense to allow the three-year phasing.”

Board member Leitha Reilly asked if it put a cap on any other further developments, and May said it would not.

Board member Tom Freda asked if a couple could have a disabled child living with them. Hollis said the age 21 rule was the only criteria and that there must be one person age 55 or over in the household.

Resident James DiBurro of 10 Priscilla Lane, who abuts the property, submitted a formal letter of concern that a buffer should be built between his property and the development to protect his privacy.

Chairman Arthur Rugg accepted the letter and said the developers had been very accommodating.

The vote to grant the exemption was unanimous.