A proposed new development project in Halifax known as 8 Hilda Lane has a history dating back to 2005. The property is in an area zoned residential and is owned by 8 Hilda Lane Realty Plus courtesy of Scott Burgess.
The construction planned would consist of 21 single family units spread across 5 buildings.
Burgess bought the property, which consists of 21 acres, back in July of 2019. The original subdivision was approved back in 2005 but was not built except for what appears to be 2 houses that share a common driveway that have their access from Hilda Lane.
Burgess as well as his civil engineer Don Bracken with Bracken Engineering appeared before the Planning Board during their Dec. 3 meeting. “The intent is to build a subdivision road and construct this multifamily development on this one large lot,” Bracken explained. The original application was for a special permit with two variances, however, it was discovered during the Planning Board meeting that two additional variances would be required. Bracken said that they did withdraw their request for site plan approval due to some of the concerns of the Planning Board. He said they plan on resubmitting.
The development is to be constructed in accordance with bylaws with the following exceptions advertised: 1. to allow a 53 ft front yard setback where a 75 ft setback is required and 2. to allow a 43 ft separation between buildings where a 100 ft separation is required.
The necessary changes that were brought to light during the Planning Board meeting include the relocation of a drainage basin which is currently within the riverfront area. Bracken said that the option not to make the change exists though it would require going before the Conservation Commission for approval. The second request is to install a water line. When the subdivision was initially approved in 2005, water was not available at the road but it has since been added. Bracken noted that getting approval on these changes should not be difficult as he would consider them both improvements. Another change includes altering the four driveway entrances that were part of the original plan to just two proposed entrances for the new project.
Bracken presented the project to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) during a scheduled public hearing via Zoom at their December 14 meeting. While the application had been amended to include the four variances as of the date of the meeting, only two variances had been advertised.
ZBA Chair Robert Gaynor said, “I’m concerned with the fact that right before us now… is for a special permit and two variances.” He confirmed with Bracken that correspondence had been sent to the Board stating that they would like to ask for additional variances. Town counsel Amy Kwesell was in attendance and told the Board that it would be their decision whether to move forward or not. Gaynor said, “It’s the intention then, as recommended to the Board, to the Zoning Board, I recommend that I don’t want to do this piecemeal… I want to do it all or nothing.”
Bracken, who was understanding of Gaynor’s position, said that he realizes that the process would likely take several meetings. He said he was hoping that his appearance at the meeting could serve as an opportunity to explain the project and possibly get any feedback prior to another hearing. A potential site walk was also mentioned.
Gaynor also mentioned to those present that Burgess came before the Zoning Board of Appeals in December of 2019 for a different version of the project. The applicant withdrew their application at that time and were not denied. Bracken said he knew little of the encounter.
Gaynor recommended that “we continue the hearing for this petition until it gets advertised correctly with all the variances that are necessary.” Kwesell had concerns, however, that they would be best served getting approval from the Planning Board before proceeding with the ZBA. Kwesell pointed out that the subdivision approval was granted 15 years ago and under the Planning Board regulations for subdivision control, a subdivision approval is only good for two years. She recommended to Bracken that they get approval from the Planning Board as to the modification of the roadway before again appearing before the ZBA.
Kwesell explained, “Right now, if they want to come before the Zoning Board of Appeals under the multifamily, they have to come under the 2005 approved roadway because that’s the only approved roadway that’s out there so they either need to get their modification to that roadway approved or the ZBA can only look at the 2005 approved roadway.” She said she believed it would behoove the client to attain approval for those modifications since they themselves described them merely as improvements. She told the ZBA, “Right now they don’t have an approved roadway that match the plans that are in front of you.”
ZBA member Peter Parcellin echoed the sentiment that the application before them was inaccurate saying, “It needs to catch up.” He went on to say, “I know that the neighborhood around here is very concerned about this project and I think that they deserve everything to be very clear as we’re voting on it.”
Gaynor agreed with Kwesell and Parcellin telling Bracken that they would need to work out the modifications with the Planning Board before even advertising for the special permit with the 4 variances with the ZBA.
“We have no problem continuing this for a couple of months and hopefully that will give us plenty of time to go through the Planning Board process and hopefully get those changes that we’re pretty confident that we should be able to get because they’re improvements,” Bracken said.
Gaynor asked Bracken if he would like to withdraw his petition from the ZBA. While initially Bracken said he would like to confer with his client first, Kwesell told him if they were unwilling to withdraw, the ZBA would need to deny the first project for the special permit with 2 variances resulting in them having to wait two years to present another due to the denied project. Bracken then agreed to withdraw without prejudice. The Board voted to accept the withdrawal.
Resident and abutter Kerri Butler was in attendance and requested to speak. She thanked the ZBA for their due diligence as she said she had noted that there were only 2 variances explicitly listed in the advertising. “We’ve been down this road before; the neighbors are all very concerned. We know that development is inevitable, however, there is reasonable development and then there is over the top development.”