Conservation chair worries Depot St. condos would encroach on wetland

SOUTHWICK — The Planning Board may soon take a vote on the proposed residential development at 42 Depot St. after concerns were expressed over the proximity of some parts of the property to the wetlands buffer zone.

The Planning Board voted to continue the public hearing for the property to its meeting scheduled for Oct. 5. The Conservation Commission voted the day before to also continue its hearing for the same property.

A representative from R. Levesque Associates said that the original plan for 42 Depot St. had been revised based on comments from the Department of Public Works. Most of the changes that were made involved stormwater systems throughout the 100-unit property, but there was minimal impact to the overall layout of the project.

The proposed development would have 100 residential condo-style units. Right Hand Clyde Real Estate LLC is seeking a special permit, site plan approval, and earth excavation permit, a wellhead protection district permit, and a stormwater management permit from the Planning Board before they can begin the development.

It will also need to be approved by the Conservation Commission due to its proximity to the wetlands buffer zone.

Conservation Commission Chair Christopher Pratt said to the Planning Board that he was concerned about the proximity of several of the units to the wetland buffer zone on the north side of the property. The condos would be approximately 12 feet from the buffer zone, which is permissible, as nothing would be built on the buffer zone itself, but Pratt said he is concerned that residents of the condos would take it upon themselves to increase their backyard space by illegally clearing trees and brush from parts of the buffer zone.

“There are only 12 feet of backyard, which really isn’t a backyard,” said Pratt, “So I believe people are going to encroach. It is human nature for people to want a bigger backyard or outdoor space.”

Pratt said he would like to see some sort of solution to prevent residents from undertaking their own expansions, as he thinks silt fences or plantings will not be enough of a deterrent. It was also proposed that some condos be removed from the plan so that there are no residents who feel that they have inadequate backyard space.

During the public comment portion of the hearing, one resident expressed concerns over possible increased traffic resulting from the 100 additional homes. Planning Board Chair Michael Doherty said that he does not believe the development would result in a significant increase in passenger vehicle or school bus traffic.

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