Mountainside project faces uphill battle

 

Terry Buck of T. Buck Construction wants town approval to create a four-lot subdivision between Old County Road and the ski slope trails of Shawnee Peak on Pleasant Mountain. Old County Road residents say Buck has no right to access their private road, located in a high-density subdivision of both year-round and summer homes off Mountain Road. Route 302 is shown at top, with a portion of Moose Pond at the top right.

 

 

By Gail Geraghty

Staff Writer

A plan to carve four more lots high up on the side of Pleasant Mountain faces an uphill battle — with serious objections being raised not only by nearby residents of Old County Road, but also by Bridgton Fire Chief Glen Garland, who stated flatly that “year-round access with fire apparatus is unlikely with these grades” of up to 13 percent.

Terry Buck of T. Buck Construction, Inc. of Auburn owns a home on Old County Road, a dead-end dirt road off Mountain Road that was developed into a sizable subdivision of both year-round and summer homes overlooking Moose Pond by the Evans family in the 1960s.

Several years ago, tree clearing began behind Buck’s property by then-owner Chet Homer. Buck bought the property in February from Clay and Sherry McLafferty, who later acquired it, to protect his residential property from being impacted by any unwanted commercial development, he said.

On Tuesday, Buck came to the Bridgton Planning Board with preliminary plans to develop the 3.35 acres into four house lots, accessed by an existing 230-foot right-of-way beside his property. The access road would be widened, paved and extended to become a 430-foot private road leading to the development, to be called Buck Estates.

As the meeting began, several of the nine Old County Road residents in attendance challenged the entire concept of the project. They said the property Buck acquired wasn’t part of the original Evans subdivision, and therefore he had no right to access Old County Road, a private road maintained by the Schiersruhenberg Roads Association.

Linda Dolloff, the association’s president, said Buck needs permission to use their private road, and he does not have it. Daniel Roberts, one of five members of the road association who sent letters to the board objecting to the project, stated the problem succinctly: “How can a subdivision be developed over private property and roads without an approval of the owners of that property and those roads?”

The board agreed that the road association members raised a valid legal concern, but that it was a civil matter and outside their jurisdiction. They voted to use the $400 placed in escrow for the project to seek an opinion from the town attorney, but agreed to hear preliminary plans for the project from Buck’s consultant, Tom Dubois of Main-Land Development, Inc.

Dubois said the legal question was moot, since Buck has the right to access Old County Road from his property, including from any rights-of-way Buck has to rear acreage behind his property. Dubois said any other resident with back acreage could do the same.

Still, as the board went through its 19 elements of review for subdivisions, it became clear there were limits — in terms of phosphorus runoff, erosion and fire protection — to how much more of the mountainside could be carved into house lots. Several residents pointed to the already substandard condition of the narrow Old County Road, which sustained further damage and erosion over the summer from heavy rains.

“It’s so steep there, and the water comes off so fast,” said Jeff Perkins, Old County Road resident. Added fellow road resident Bob Michaud, “Our road system is not adequate to handle the situation as it currently exists,” let alone with four more house lots.

As proposed, Buck’s four lots would be served by a 430-foot-long private road with a hammerhead “T” turnaround. All four lots would be served by a common water system and three of the four lots would have a common septic system. One of the lots would have its own septic system. Town ordinances allow lots served by common systems to be smaller in size than the one-acre lot size minimum; as such, the project is proposing that the three lots be served by both a common water and septic system to be 20,000 square feet, with the lot using a private septic system being 30,000 square feet.

Dubois acknowledged he had to get “creative” in designing ways to handle stormwater runoff on the steeply-sloping lots, with grades of up to 13 percent. To slow the water and divert its flow, he said he created two vegetated underdrain filters, one above the hammerhead “T” and another on the lot served by its own septic. Even so, the development will exceed its phosphorus allowance nearly twofold — requiring Buck to pay a remediation fee of $2,494 to the Department of Environmental Protection.

Board member Brian Thomas said he was very worried about the impact to Moose Pond. “The health of Moose Pond has been degrading over the years and I’m a little concerned about it,” he said. He especially pointed to the exceedance of phosphorus loads from the project, but said, “I guess there’s nothing you can do about it because the DEP says you can.”

Dubois was firm in his belief that developing the property with a system of drainage, culverts and buffers will “significantly improve” from the current damage from erosion and runoff that is occurring now, in its undeveloped state. “I think we’re going pretty above and beyond on this one,” he said. At the board’s request, he agreed to use pavement for the road access and driveways, instead of gravel, because gravel is considered less of an impediment to phosphorus runoff than pavement.

Thomas said he was more concerned about the maintenance, years down the road, of those erosion control measures, because the board’s experience has been that all the erosion control measures will have little effect if they are not maintained.

Buck, who would like to develop the lots this fall, said he will make sure that Old County Road will be left in the same or better condition after construction as before construction. He also agreed to shave a berm off one side of his Old County Road property to increase the turning radius for fire engines.

Fire Chief Glen Garland gave his assessment, when the board turned to requirements of streets and safety for emergency vehicles. “At grades of 13 percent, it makes it quite difficult for us to operate,” he said. All it would take would be for a fire truck to run into a ditch, or not be able to back down the hill, he said.

Dubois countered that grades of 13 percent “are not that uncommon” in Bridgton.

“I’m concerned about any emergency services responding,” Garland said. “It’s a dead-end road off a dead-end road.” Garland said such a situation makes it nearly impossible for his department to establish a “flow” to bring any injured down, once the department has set up its shuttle system, with a fire tank at the Old County Road and lines of hose pumping water up Buck Hill Drive. Two fire hydrants are located within a mile of the project site, but Board Chairman Steve Collins said the current thinking of a Fire Suppression Committee he serves on is that requiring homeowners to install sprinkler systems is the better alternative.

Dubois said the idea of making sprinklers mandatory for the project gives him “heartburn,” since the project would have to compete with other properties nearby that do not have such a requirement.

But Garland said that, while firefighters would be able to reach the site, using two fire pumper engines and hoses, “I just don’t want to keep adding on to that problem” without looking to the day when it will stretch the department beyond its ability to cope. He added that the issue isn’t only with subdivisions, but also with single-lot development on roads not served by town water.

The board tabled the review until their next meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 2.

 

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