Planning Board Continues Review of Canter Brook Project

Engineer says soil tests exceeded his expectation for water absorption.

Anticipating that it will make a decision on the proposed Canter Brook senior housing project in September, the Hamilton Planning Board reviewed Tuesday night the results of soil tests at six sites, proposed architectural drawings for the residences and plans for landscaping and parking.

The proposed 43-unit senior housing complex, which would replace the Canter Brook Equestrian Center, must also win the approval of the Conservation Commission, the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Health Department. The development is being designed for a 14-acre site between Highland and Asbury streets.

More than a dozen neighbors showed up and asked questions of the engineer and architect. “There is a lot of interest in this project,” said Rick Hayes, a neighbor.

Another neighbor asked the board if the owner, Jerry Dawson, could sell the project once it wins all its approvals.

Board chairman Peter Clarke and member Rick Mitchell explained that a special permit would transfer with the land for two years with a one-year extension.

After the meeting, Dawson said he has never said he plans to sell the project. “There is a lot of things said about me. But these people (the neighbors) don't know me.”

Robert Forbes, senior engineer with Prime Engineering, explained that he was only able to dig six holes to test the ability of the soil to absorb the water. Five of the six holes exceeded his expectations, he said. The sixth hole did not allow for much water to seep through it, he said.

Forbes will ask the Conservation Commission next week for permission to drill additional test holes in areas that are more environmentally sensitive. Once those wells are dug and the soil tested, the results will be reviewed by an engineer, Robert Puff, that is working for the planning board.

Several neighbors have criticized the project, saying it will make the flooding of their properties worse. Project owners have disagreed with that claim.

Forbes said the owners rejected the idea of eliminating the outdoor pool at the two-story building to gain more parking spaces. Visitor parking for the building would be along the street instead.

Architect Chris Doktor said the residences will be built with a New England-style shingles. The duplexes will be 1,800 to 2,000 square feet and have three bedrooms. The 18 units in the two-story building will have two bedrooms in 1,300 square feet.

Outside the project will feature a splitwood rail fence along Asbury Street. There will be 12-foot tall, historic-style outdoor lanterns that light the sidewalks and roadways. The lanterns are designed to limit the light given off into the night sky, Doktor said.

Doktor said the project will follow many of the environmental guidelines outlined by the U.S. Green Building Council and the federal Energy Star program, but it may not seek certification as a green project.

The Planning Board will meet next on this project on July 19 and again on August 2. It has been reviewing this project for almost a year.

Clarke Remains as Chairman

The Board voted unanimously to ask Clarke to remain as chairman until its October meeting. Clarke had proposed that a new chairman be elected to head the board, but members Mitchell and Evelyn Shuman said they would like for him to complete the review of the special permit for the Canter Brook project.

Ed Howard agreed. “The planning board has gained a lot of respect in town under your tutelage,” he said.


alice maciejowski June 16, 2011 at 01:11 PM
On the contrary: The applicant's attorney has assured the Board at a public hearing that the applicant will not be the developer. In turn, the Board has assured the neighbors. Why would they be concerned about the applicant? Perhaps it is because the applicant has two abandoned developments (so far) in Essex County. The first one in Saugus resulted in a 300 by 20 foot retaining wall collapsing on the abutters and a lawsuit by the City against the applicant. The second one is in Lynnfield, where a half dozen McMansions have sat unfinished for years.
Marcie Ricker June 16, 2011 at 04:38 PM
On the Contrary to the previous comment, the Planning Board has not assured anyone who the develeper is going to be at the Canter Brook project. According to Town Counsel, it is illegal for the Planning Board to consider the applicant's reputation, history or neighbor's opinions of him. To do so, would put the Town of Hamilton in jeopardy of a lawsuit. The Planning Board must by law, consider the proposal for the specific site, and if approved, issue findings and conditions of the approval for that specific project for that specific site, all of which run with the land and not the landowner. The insurance that the project will be completed as designed is in the performance guarantee that is placed in escrow which allows the Town to finish the project if the developer, not matter who it may be, is unable to do so. We have tried to explain this on several occasions during the public hearing process. If anyone has any more confusion regarding this matter, please feel free to contact the Planning Board office at 978 468 5584 and I will take the time to make sure that this element of the special permit process is clear.
alice maciejowski June 17, 2011 at 12:16 PM
Everyone understands this. We are not stupid. We are not opposed to change on the property, either, as you state in your last post. Nor do we need a lecture on what constitutes good citizenry. And the notion that the town needs luxury condos is ludicrous. The problem lies in the huge number of discretionary units the Board granted this guy, many of which in the words of the Board's own expert were granted for unwarranted bonus qualification. Given the problematic parcel, the track record of the developer and the collapsed housing market, this project is too big. That's the sole reason for objection. Cami Beckman said it well in her last post: we are disgusted.


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