Hollis 26-lot subdivision moves closer to approval

HOLLIS – A proposal for a 26-lot residential subdivision on Federal Hill Road in Hollis has successfully passed the design review stage.

At a meeting on Feb. 20, the Hollis Planning Board reviewed studies on traffic and wildlife that are to be completed by the developers, and then voted to advance the project to the final application phase.

Ronald Corsetti, an abutter, voiced his concerns over the effect the project would have on wildlife in the area, and that proposed studies wouldn’t take into account all four seasons. Vice Chairman Doug Gagne responded that the wildlife study would be discussed again at the March meeting. He said the board had received many emails and letters and had reviewed the people’s concerns.

“Most of us came to Hollis from somewhere else,” Gagne said. “I can promise you that those developments 20 years ago did not receive the same level of scrutiny we do today.”

Chad Branon, from Fieldstone Land Consultants, said his firm has been working on this project for more than two years, and already has documentation and photographs from different times of year. He assured the board that there are no vernal ponds within the developed area of the project, and said he was looking forward to putting together a final proposal for review.

Dennis LaBombard, of LaBombard Engineering LLC, also responded to questions regarding blasting, guardrails, safety fencing and drainage.

“There will not be any more water volume leaving this site after it is constructed than there is now,” he said. “In fact, it will be better off. With infiltration basins, during smaller storms, the water will never leave the site.”

Regarding potential damage from blasting, LaBombard explained that a survey would be taken of the area within a 2,000-foot radius of the blast. Present conditions will be recorded and documented, so that any potential complaints of blast damage could be appropriately reviewed.

Town Planner Mark Fougere pointed out how the size of a blast can be dialed down to reduce the amount of vibration in the ground, thus decreasing the likelihood of damage to nearby property. He cited the work done for the Merrimack Premium Outlets as an example of how the size of the blast can be adjusted as needed.

“The blasting protocol has been added to the plan,” Branon said. “I don’t believe this project will require as much blasting as people think. We are not anticipating fencing in the wetlands, probably just at the top where we will be blasting along Rocky Pond Road. It is not my belief that we will have fencing on the wetland crossings (but) we may have to put guardrails in.”

Traffic issues need to be addressed, and Fougere has asked that the required traffic analysis include both possible scenarios: One where the development has two dead ends, and the second option where the roads are connected.

Other required studies include the fiscal impact of adding 26 homes and the projected number of children that would add to the school system, the visual impact of the project, any historical significance to the site, and the maintenance of trails on the property.

The developer has agreed to conduct the necessary studies and asked the board to consider the design review complete. Changes to the proposal cannot be made once the design review is final. If results of the studies indicate changes must be made, the project will have to be reintroduced at the first stage of conceptual review. The final application still must be reviewed by the board, with public input, before construction can begin.

“Understand that we can’t require you to submit these studies prior to final,” Gagne said, “but the final decision I think will hinge on what the wildlife report says. As long as you are still aware and willing to take the risk that we may require changes at final, then let’s send this to final.”

The board voted unanimously 5-0 to advance the proposal to final application.

The next meeting of the Planning Board is scheduled for March 18.