HOPKINTON — The attorney and engineer representing the developer of the proposed Brushy Brook housing subdivision off Dye Hill Road were back before the Planning Board on Wednesday, asking for feedback on their preliminary plan.
The Brushy Brook property was most recently proposed as the site of a commercial solar energy facility, a plan that the Town Council rejected in January.
Attorney William Landry reminded board members that the housing project had received master plan approval from the town in 2010, following a year and a half of hearings before the Planning Board. The board’s approval was contingent on a reduction in the number of housing units from 300 to between 116 and 145. The board also required that the project be reconfigured to place it farther away from the Arcadia Management Area.
The developer, David Allen, appealed the local board’s decision to the State Housing Appeals Board, which upheld the ruling. He then appealed the housing board's ruling to Rhode Island Superior Court, which also upheld the Hopkinton Planning Board's position.
“All of that concluded with the approval standing and with those conditions standing,” Landry said.
“Where we’re at now is in the midst of a two-year potential extension period, in that window between master plan and preliminary plan at which the real hard, expensive engineering and approval processes take place, and that work has been underway for several months,” Landry said.
Project engineer Eric Prive of DiPrete Engineering went through the revised plan, which calls for a cluster development of homes on 20,000-square foot lots on 358 acres in an RFR 80, or residential and agricultural zone.
Two freshwater wetlands on the site would be undisturbed and 75 percent of the property would remain as open space.
The latest plan, Prive said, calls for 140 housing units on 112 lots.
“Obviously there’s a discrepancy between the number of units and the number of lots,” he said. “That’s because seven of the lots will be for the low and moderate income housing and … the other 28 of those lots would have one-bedroom units on the same lot as a three-bedroom unit as well. So we’ve got kind of a combination of uses on the property.”
The idea of having affordable units sharing lots with market priced homes was first proposed for Brushy Brook in 2015. It raised questions then and it raised questions again on Wednesday. Board members questioned the need for affordable one-bedroom units and wondered who would be responsible for enforcing the deed restrictions on the affordable units located on the market-priced lots.
“You’re going to have to find a way that those single units are going to be deed restricted for a single person who is going to be responsible for that bonus room over the garage for 30 years," board member Carolyn Light said.
Landry said the affordable portion of the plan could be modified.
“If what the town’s saying is they don’t need any housing for seniors or anyone who might need only one bedroom, that the only need in town is single family dwellings, well, we’ll have to take a look at that,” Landry said.
The board asked for more a more detailed plan and Prive said he would provide one. “We were able to hear a good amount of feedback and we have some steps to take us in the next direction,” he said.
In other business, the board discussed the amount of a reforestation bond for the Maxson Hill commercial solar energy project. The project, which will occupy 64 acres of a 300-acre parcel at 310 Main St., has received the required approvals from the town and the trees were recently cleared.
The proposed reforestation bond is $115,531 and the reforestation plan, which would be executed when the facility is decommissioned, was prepared by forester Marc Tremblay, a consultant hired by the developer. The board was asked to approve both the amount of the bond and the plan.
John Mancini, the attorney representing the developer, Anthony DelVicario, said the bond would be entirely in cash. “It’s unequivocal that it will be cash in an interest-bearing account,” he said.
Alfred DiOrio, who chairs the board, wondered whether the amount of the bond would be sufficient to protect the town if the project fails.
“So you have this bond of $115,000 and change,” he said. “What happens if it all goes south tomorrow? Is the $115,000 adequate to cover the reforestation?”
Other board members questioned the amount of the bond and the plan, which were produced by a paid expert for the developer and have not been subjected to an independent review.
“In my mind, $115,000 so doesn’t cut it, especially when it’s not a consultant that’s looking out for Hopkinton’s best interest,” Light said.
Board member Emily Shumenchenia took issue with the clear-cutting of the property before the reforestation plan had been approved.
“In the time since our last meeting, the location for this project has been completely deforested, and that’s important context,” she said. “The trees were cut on this site before the reforestation plan was even approved by the board. At the very least, it’s bad optics and it could be interpreted as bad faith actions on behalf of the developer.”
Mancini said an independent review of the reforestation plan would not delay the project.
“The trees are already taken down," he said. "We have a valid building permit. We have valid approvals. We’re prepared to proceed, we will continue to proceed, so I don’t think it counts as a delay. All it’s going to do is delay the deposit of the funds.”
The board approved a motion to defer a decision on the reforestation plan and the bond until the town’s engineering firm, Crossman Engineering, has conducted an evaluation.