Conservation officials this week convened a public hearing on an unconventional 52-unit housing project on a small, environmentally-sensitive parcel off Morse Street, but put off any meat-and-potatoes discussion until later this month.
Unveiled last summer, the proposal envisions a self-contained village on Bleachery Pond previously occupied by Willow Grove Nursery. It would consist of 10 units in cottage-style duplexes along the shoreline, 40 units in two-story “fourplexes” clustered around small green spaces and two units in an existing historic home on the site.
Last September, selectmen voted 4-1 to formally sponsor the project, the first step in a lengthy approval process that will involve both state and local land-use and environmental agencies before a final ruling is handed down by the town zoning board of appeals.
Owned by longtime resident and businessman Michael Saegh, the six-acre parcel is located near the Mansfield town line and opposite the old Bleachery industrial complex.
Lauren Gluck, senior environmental scientist with the Pare Corporation, briefly outlined the scope and location of nearby wetland areas, based largely on observations made last fall.
Stating that he had walked the property on several prior occasions, Chairman Robert Boette recommended another site visit for newer members of the appointed commission. This visit is scheduled for Tuesday, Jan. 18.
Commission member David Opatka questioned several aspects of the application, including proposed work on a water main traversing conservation land which would service the planned village.
Participating remotely in Monday night’s meeting, Karl VandenBoom of 109 Morse St. asked commission members to clarify the process going forward, especially regarding potential vernal pools, as well as defining the location of the Rumford River itself.
Boette replied that some of those answers would likely be self-evident during the commission’s site walk.
VandenBoom offered to provide the commission with photos which he said documented the extent and location of the river during extended dry periods.
“I’m not an expert,” he said. “This is just a personal observation.”
Commission members agreed to continue the hearing until Jan. 31.