MADISON — In a 6-3 vote Thursday night, the Planning and Zoning Commission approved a special exception for the building application of The Ledges, a seven-unit residential complex at 856 Boston Post Road, within the the town’s zone of cluster housing.
The project has drawn controversy partly because blasting will be needed to clear space for septic systems and for a water main, especially because water service could be disrupted to neighboring properties
The complex is named for the Ledges, the 5600-square foot home built in 1903 on the site and calls for rehabbing the house into two condominium residences. Two duplexes will be constructed behind the house and a “gatehouse” residence will be built in the front of the main house along the driveway.
Commission member Jim Matteson said he struggled with the “gateway” house because that area of the property was needed as a leaching field for the rest of the complex. He said that even though the applicant had been able to make the project “fit” as cluster housing, he questioned whether it would bring substantial or permanent harm to the neighborhood.
“The first thing I would speak to is value and and I’m not talking necessarily about monetary value, I’m speaking about the value of the neighbors having, essentially, tranquility and maybe the feel of their surroundings,” he said.
Commission member Tom Berlin said he was concerned that two adjacent homes that historically have had water lines that cross the Ledges property receive assurance and protections of uninterrupted delivery of water.
Berlin also said that there were only a few locations in town that cluster housing — a special use the town approved in 2018 — could fit in, and the Ledges location was one of them.
“So if not here, where? I do believe after doing the sidewalk and after looking at the designs that it goes a long way to meeting what our vision was of having a cluster community in the downtown area,” he said.
The approval included six conditions, which included adherence to specific blasting guidelines, the use of only organic fertilizers and pesticides on the grounds and maintenance of the historical Ledges residence and all stone walls located on the site.
Other conditions included the presentation of final architectural plans to the Advisory Committee on Community Appearance prior to receiving a certificate of zoning compliance to permit construction, with a requirement that the Director of Planning and Economic Development review final elevations and materials for each dwelling unit to ensure consistency with the approved plan. Resident owners must also demonstrate compliance with the homeowner association regulations to receive a certificate of occupancy.
The owner of the project, Faith Whitehead, will also be responsible to maintain water service to the other properties in the vicinity and will be responsible for all costs associated with the final water facilities plan.
A number of commission members expressed concerns about the septic issues on the site, but Town Planner David Anderson said septic system management was in the purview of the health department and not the commission.
“While you might agree that septic systems are a concern in certain areas of town, I don’t necessarily think the responsibility for that rests entirely on your shoulders… There are other mechanisms in place that the town could pursue to regulate septic systems,” he said.
In particular, Anderson said that for the next fiscal year the town had voted to fund a comprehensive wastewater study for the Water Pollution Control Authority, which had been recommended in the town’s 2013 Plan of Conservation and Development and requested every year since then by the water authority.
Commission members who voted in favor of the project were Chair Ron Clark, Joe Bunovsky, Joel Miller, Giselle Mcdowall, Peter Roos and Tom Berlin. Jim Matteson, Elliott Hitchcock and John Mathers voted in opposition.
The public hearing for the project began on March 18 and was continued to May 26 and June 3. The application documents can be found here.