Once we were tentatively set to purchase the three lots, we had to deal with the retreat lot and subdivision designations. The sellers took on the responsibility of getting the retreat lots approved which is a relatively straight forward matter. Then it was our job to get the subdivision approved. That ended up being a bit lengthy.
Our first meeting was in the beginning of May in 2014 where the engineer presented a preliminary sketch to the board to get their thoughts on it. The planning board is composed of about six members. This was almost two years ago so I am trying to recall how many votes we needed, but I think we had 1 abstain from the proceedings (he’s a neighbor) and needed 3 of the remaining 5 to approve. Maybe it was 4 of 5? Anyway…
In the beginning of June we returned with our engineer’s subdivision plans. The board had plenty of questions and concerns. They didn’t like how our initial road met the main road (the angle was deemed too sharp), the slope was too high (10 degrees, which is fairly steep), and they wanted more gravel base. A subdivision according to the bylaws requires a great deal of fancy work: 18 inches of gravel base, granite curbing, etc. We were asking to have certain parts of it waived because the bylaws were intended to cover the most complex of subdivisions. Ours was tiny in comparison. They also wanted hydrology numbers for runoff, were considering demanding a 20 foot wide road instead of 18 feet, had some concerns with the name of the road due to possible confusion with similar sounding names, and wanted us to double check that our hammer head length was sufficient.
We went back at the next board meeting with most of the changes requested, but we still wanted 12 inches of gravel base instead of 18. Two of the board members were missing, so there were only 3 eligible to vote. One of the three voting members was clear that he wasn’t going to approve of 12 inches. The difference could add tens of thousands of dollars to the project price! We weren’t convinced that the 18″ was necessary. So we passed on voting that night and returned to the next meeting three weeks later.
At this point it was early July but we got the subdivision approved. We altered the path of the road to accommodate a less steep slope and better angle meeting the road. We knew this would cause us some later trouble with rock because the new road angle meant going straight through probable ledge. But there wasn’t any way around that. We did get them to agree to an 18 foot wide road instead of the 26 foot official requirement. We agreed on 12 inches of gravel base. There’s a condition that if it’s found that there is noticeable runoff being added to the road in the winter as ice sheeting, we’d have to mitigate that. Another condition of the subdivision is that I cannot sell the two lots contained within it until I finish the road.
Whew. Well with that, we entered the 20 day appeal period. Hilariously there was one last incident. The surveyor for the town realized that there was a point on our lot where the private road runs that is only 49.97 feet wide. Because subdivision roads require a 50 foot width this requires a waiver for the subdivision. We had to go back in front of the planning board in mid-August to get this fixed! To give you some perspective, that is approximately one-third of an inch or less than one centimeter. Fortunately the planning board passed this without too much issue.
Planning boards. They asked me to run for a position on the board. I was flattered by their suggestion but it wouldn’t work in my schedule. Maybe in the future. I did get to chat with them often after the meetings. One of them owns the biggest farm in town. Another owns a local bar in Worcester that’s quite popular with the college students. I’ve been meaning to go but haven’t gone yet. Maybe this summer!