The Block Island Times

Neighbors question subdivision plan for The Plains

Public hearing to continue in May
By Judy Tierney | Apr 17, 2013

A public hearing on a subdivision application for a 23.5 acre parcel off Payne Rd. and Mohegan Trail, known as The Plains, drew abutting neighbors to the Planning Board meeting Wednesday evening. Public hearings on the proposed subdivision will continue at the next planning board meeting in May.

Owners Shannon McAloon and William Merkler, have proposed a six lot subdivision on the property (plat 9, lot 58), for which they calculate they have enough square footage for each lot to build a conventional subdivision without any waivers. The tract is divided by an unpaved Payne Road, with four homes planned north of the road and two to the south.

After multiple pre-application hearings in which the planning board had requested a flexible lot subdivision plan as well as a conventional plan, the board and the owners agreed to a concept of a hybrid of the two plans. The application then moved to the public hearing phase. Chair Margie Comings explained at this week’s hearing that after an engineering study is conducted on the site, there might still be minor variations to the plan that was being presented.

In the hybrid master plan, the owners included an agricultural easement on the hayfield that runs across the property below the Sheffield Farms development. Merkler and his attorney, William Landry, said the plan is to maintain the hayfield indefinitely. Abutters John R. Ellis and Kevin Rethore, who own homes along Mohegan Trail below the northern section of the Merkler property, took issue with the designation of the hayfield as an agricultural area. Their homes are in what they called “the hollow” and that the embankment, on the other side of Payne Road, drains toward their properties. Ellis and Rethore said they were concerned about the impact that the proposed crops could have on their shared well. The two abutters requested the planning board and the applicant take square footage from lot 2, the largest of the six lots, and create a seventh lot for the wetlands with a conservation easement.

Town Land Use Attorney Don Packer asked the two neighbors to mark their well on the planning board map.

Neighbor Sandy Kelly, who lives across the street from Ellis and Rethore on the Atlantic Ocean side of Mohegan Trail, also expressed concerns about her well if agriculture is pursued on the Merkler subdivision. Dottie and David Graham, who live just east of that area on the Sheffield Farms subdivision, asked for a definition of an agricultural area.

“I overlook that property all the time. Would there be greenhouses and barns?” David Graham asked. He also was concerned about livestock.

Landry replied that no buildings or structures other than what might be needed for what is grown on the area would be built. Merkler told them he would like to leave the area as a hayfield, and might construct a shed for a tractor at some point. Comings said that the planning board could place restrictions on the agricultural area and Packer expanded on that idea, proposing that the board could restrict livestock and any buildings there.

Another neighbor, Julie Burke, whose property abuts the eastern boundary of the tract next to Sheffield Farms, expressed concern that the driveway for all four of the planned homes on that property is planned to run along her property. “The driveway I find distressing,” Burke said. “I’d like to think there might be an alternative.”

The public hearing will be held open and continued at the May planning board meeting. Prior to that, the planning board will plan a walk together on the property, although Comings said, each had individually walked the property.

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