Proposed subdivision riles neighbors on Lefebvre Lane (Aug. 28, 2008)

Aug. 28, 2008
By Tim Simard
Observer staff

A proposed nine-unit subdivision off North Williston Road is causing headaches for a bordering neighborhood.
Colchester developer Jeff Atwood and North Williston Road homeowners Dana and Brenda Hood have recently applied for a residential development in the town’s medium density residential district.


          Observer photo by Tim Simard
Dana Hood stands on the porch of his North Williston Road home. The Hood family home could be moved off the property if Colchester developer Jeff Atwood’s proposed subdivision is permitted by the town.


Plans call for four duplex units and one single-family unit to be built along a new cul-de-sac on property owned by Atwood and the Hoods, directly adjacent to the Lefebvre Lane neighborhood.

“We think the project will fit into the overall town plan,” Dana Hood said.
But Lefebvre Lane resident Briant Hamrell disagrees. While he said neither he nor his neighbors are against development, he believes large duplex units would not fit in with nearby single-family homes.

“It’s not keeping in character with what’s going on in the neighborhood,” Hamrell said.
Furthermore, Hamrell said Atwood has not listened to Lefebvre Lane homeowners’ concerns and has tried to “steamroll the whole thing.”

Hamrell questioned some of Atwood’s negotiation tactics, especially in light of past comments from other developers who have looked at the land in the past. Hamrell said he’s heard on a number of occasions the property is “undevelopable,” in part because of wetlands that make up much of the north end of the land.
“It’s not that we don’t want to work with him, it’s that he doesn’t want to negotiate,” Hamrell said.

Atwood, who owns Russ/Wood Decorators Inc. in Colchester, said on the advice of his lawyer he could not comment on the project, but would “talk freely” at a later date.

A pre-application hearing for the planned subdivision is scheduled to take place at the Sept. 9 Development Review Board meeting. Board members are expected to hear from both Atwood and the Hoods, and Hamrell said a large contingent of Lefebvre Lane residents would turn out to voice their concerns.

Richard Asch, a member of the Development Review Board since December 2007 who also lives on Lefebvre Lane and serves as president of the Allen Brook Association, said he could not comment on specifics either. The Allen Brook Association includes the Lefebvre Lane neighborhood and other homeowners in the area of North Williston Road.
Asch did say he would recuse himself during any Development Review Board items involving the Atwood and Hood application, as he said he’d done on previous occasions.
Former Town Planner Lee Nellis was also a resident of Lefebvre Lane, but moved to Wisconsin earlier this month.

Modified plans

This is not the first time the Development Review Board has reviewed a version of this subdivision. Atwood first brought his initial plans as a sole applicant before the Development Review Board in May 2007. Town officials discussed the development before tabling it to another meeting.

Atwood brought a substantially different set of plans to the board’s October 2007 meeting, planning to build only three units on his property. That pre-application was approved, but with a number of conditions in regards to the wetlands.
Atwood again went before the Development Review Board in December 2007, but the hearing was cancelled because the application was deemed “incomplete” by former zoning administrator D.K. Johnston. More information was unavailable as of press time.

Atwood owns 5.4 acres, most of which is set between the residences of Lefebvre Lane and two other parcels, including the Hoods’ land, which abuts North Williston Road. There is a section of Atwood’s property that reaches North Williston Road as well, where he built a duplex in the past year. The current duplex property is separated from the proposed subdivision by the wetlands.

According to Hamrell, Atwood had initially proposed an access road to his planned subdivision by way of Lefebvre Lane, but since the road is private, neighborhood residents rejected the plan.
Atwood then approached the Hoods, who hold 1.8 acres on North Williston Road, with an offer to buy their property. Dana Hood still owns his lot, but that would change if the project is approved, he said. He did not reveal the price for which he would sell the land to Atwood.

The latest plans call for the removal of the Hood house to make way for a paved drive, which would parallel Lefebvre Lane, to access the subdivision.

But by building an entrance through the Hood property, Hamrell believes Atwood is creating another problem at what he calls the already dangerous intersection of Lefebvre Lane and North Williston Road. Hamrell said visibility is not good where the roads meet, and with drivers going too fast, an added road could be a “recipe for disaster.”

The subdivision woes have been a struggle for everyone, including Hood, who said the process has been difficult for him and his young family. But the decision to join with Atwood and sell his property became easier after his home suffered damage in the severe thunderstorms that struck the town on June 10. Two maple trees in front of his house were heavily damaged, with some of the larger branches striking his home and causing nearly $20,000 in damages, Hood said.
Hood said the family loves its current location and house and plans to remain in Williston if the project is approved. He said the town has been his home since 1967.

Hood added if the project does go through, he would like to find someone to help pick up and move his house, which was built in the 1930s but has undergone many renovations, to another plot. He said he’s checked around the Village area for available property, but hasn’t had any luck. If that doesn’t happen, he said he’d have to move to another house, but would perhaps salvage part of the current house.

The Atwood and Hood pre-application will be heard at the 7:30 p.m. Development Review Board meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 9 in Town Hall.