HOPKINTON — Developers are seeking to once again move forward with a proposal that would bring 140 houses to a parcel known as Brushy Brook but concerns remain regarding well water withdrawal plans and how the phased development will impact the environment and neighbors.
The Hopkinton Planning Board last week voted to continue a public hearing on the preliminary plan for a comprehensive housing development that would result in the construction of 140 homes, known as Brushy Brook. The development would be built on the 365-acre parcel, which is located north of Dye Hill Road and west of Skunk Hill Road.
Members of the Planning Board expressed concerns, however, that the latest revisions to the plan complicate a process that has now been more than 13 years in the making and leaves questions regarding plans for the public water system, road liabilities, civic impact on government and more.
“When it comes to this project, I have a lot of unanswered questions of my own,” said Chairman Ron Prellwitz. “There is a long way to go to get this plan out in the open, and we need a solid plan that we can take back to the public. You are the sales people on this, and you are supposed to sell us on facts for why this is good for the community and the state of Rhode Island.”
Led by Attorney William Landry with support and testimony from Robert Ferrari, president of Northeast Water Solutions, and town peer review engineer Steve Cabral of Crossman Engineering, members received an update on the proposal brought back before the town last fall. Concerns over water supply issues including a potential change in plans that does not account for state requirements and confusion over the current development plan extended discussions on the topic for more than two hours before the matter was continued until February.
Under Rhode Island State laws, any public drinking water system that includes extraction of groundwater is subject to review and approval through separate regulations from both the Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management and Rhode Island Department of Public Health.
For the community, the proposal marks a return to plans for the site that were first developed in 2009 and shelved after a combination of concerns and desire to consider solar development at the site led developers to go in a different direction.
Following several efforts to gain approval for a commercial solar field at the site, the matter was ultimately rejected by the Hopkinton Town Council last summer and developers once again focused on plans that had received preliminary approvals, with certain conditions, over a decade ago. The big concern, Landry told members of the Planning Board, remains in where and how many wells would be used to provide water for new housing.
“We have had a lot of conceptual analysis and geology that led us at the master plan stage to identify a particular area on plan as the likely area for a well field,” Landry said. “We will have to have final state permits for water based on scientifically drilled wells and we will not proceed to a final plan until that is in place.”
“Simply put, we do not want to have to build eight wells when just two or three would do with less impact,” he continued.
Members of the public and Steve Moffitt, the Hopkinton Town Council liaison to the Planning Board, questioned whether larger wells would violate the current regulations granted by the state. Moffitt noted that the state approved a plan for an anticipated demand of 64,000 gallons, and that conditions of approval stipulate that no water withdrawals will be permitted within 200 feet of jurisdictional wetlands.
He said no well is authorized to have a yield greater than 10,000 gallons per day, which makes a larger well concept hard for neighbors to swallow.
Furthermore, he expressed concerns that recent relocation of the well could potentially jeopardize neighbors or cause a significant shift in environmental impact from plans previously reviewed.
“This has been going on for 13 years, the project is painfully close to (approval) and it is painfully on top of us,” said Dye Hill Road resident Jeanne Aharonian, who noted that the latest plan moved wells from the eastern border to the southwest, where her property is located.
In a presentation to the board, Ferrari said that although preliminary plans did call for reduced wells but that since joining the project team in May 2022, efficiency studies have shown more ability to tap into groundwaters in a different section of the site.
Being in a residential neighborhood, Ferrari noted that the developer would be required to have at least two working well systems, a safety precaution required by the Department of Health, but that having more wells would actually be more taxing on the land and surrounding properties. He indicated that testing currently in progress shows far more promise with tapping into larger wells on the southwest portion of the parcel.
Although there has been a lot of work put in, Prellwitz and Planning Board members Carolyn Light and Al DiOrio all expressed concerns that the documentation for the project harkened back on what’s been done, with attorneys for the developers submitting hundreds of pages in transcripts for review. They requested that if developers wanted to see a project approved, it would be in their best interest to compile a more digestible version of facts.
“There are so many sets of plans on this project, we no longer know where to turn to look for what,” Light said. “The piles of files and transcripts, that’s not what we are looking for. We want facts, we want the plans we are looking to approve and we want impact statements from our departments. That’s what we want.
“Realistically, this is all over the place. It may not be for your experts, but we need to bring this together for the board and bring this together for the community,” she said.
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