Friday, March 23, 2001
Acton proposes connecting Log Hill Road to 233-acre development
"Why would we approve this?" Planning board chairman Michael Epstein tossed the verbal gauntlet to Joe March of Stamski and McNary at the beginning of a discussion of potentially linking Log Hill Road to a proposed subdivision in Acton. March made a brief presentation to the planning board on a plan for the 233 acres that adjoin the Carlisle neighborhood of Log Hill and Woodland Roads.
The Acton Planning Board requested that March seek approval for a road connecting the Acton development to Log Hill Road over land owned by the applicant, Charles R. Dexter. Dexter owns a small piece of land fronting on Log Hill Road, which includes a covenant with a provision that access to other parcels requires the approval of the Carlisle Planning Board.
Several years ago, in a close vote, Acton residents rejected the acquisition of the 233 acre parcel for the town. Currently, the Acton Planning Board is reviewing two plans for the site. Under Subdivision Control there is a plan for 75 house lots, and under Acton's Planned Conservation Residential Cluster Bylaw there is a plan for 114 lots. A year ago, the Acton Planning Board declined both proposals on the basis that no access was provided to Log Hill Road, as their Rules and Regulations Governing Subdivisions specify.
Acton Planning Board member Chris Tolley presented the Acton board's concerns with connectivity. The Acton board is concerned about blockages and not being able to serve this large parcel if one section gets blocked. Tolley stated that "it is not always possible to reduce the potential to a mathematical certainty" but that they can imagine one road being blocked and dwellings at an extreme end being cut off.
Acton town planner Roland Bartl told the Mosquito that covenants such as the one for the Carlisle land "usually expire after thirty years" and may no longer be binding. Bartl also clarified that the Acton Planning Board could waive the rules and regulations and limit the connecting road to emergency access. Bartl characterized the Acton board as "not having made up its mind" regarding emergency access only.
Emergency access to Log Hill
Log Hill Road is approximately 1,800 feet long and the Woodland Road connection extends the road for a total of 2,800 feet to a dead end. During the discussion, planning board members acknowledged that such a roadway configuration would be considered unsafe and prohibited under existing regulations. Members Michael Abend, Kate Reid and Dan Holzman discussed the potential need and ability to provide access for emergency and fire vehicles to the neighborhood, noting the length of the roadway and the lack of fire cisterns and that the closest fire pond is on a West Street property approximately 1,300 feet away from the roadways. Abend asserted that "at minimum, emergency access would help those folks. If there is an opportunity to provide emergency access, I would like to pursue it. It is a benefit to have some access gated or otherwise." Reid concluded that "there is not much relief on access" other than potentially relieving the traffic on Acton Street.
Residents oppose connection
Forty-year Log Hill Road resident David Trask summarized the paradox he feels that exists; the road was originally built to prevent connections and now the discussion is on providing connections because of safety. Another long-time resident, Krishna Bhavnani, remarked to the board that the lack of adequate fire and emergency access is a "risk we take and have for thirty-five years." Resident Charlie Parker expressed concern that the covenant was designed to prohibit a new road and "now you're talking about emergency access. What is to stop the board in the future years from turning this into a road?"
No action was required or taken on the Acton proposal. Epstein closed the informal discussion with a statement of sympathy for the Acton Planning Board's "plight," but commented, "We don't want to adversely affect the [Log Hill] neighborhood."
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