February 18, 2010

260 units over Varna?

Developer Stephen Lucente and his engineer Lawrence Fabbroni came to the Dryden Planning Board to have an initial conversation about their proposal for building a new development on the southern hillside above Varna along Route 366, running behind the existing houses from Mount Pleasant Road to just east of the Varna Community Center. It wasn't a formal application process, though they did have sketches to show and a rough description of what they were thinking about. I pretty much fell over, though, when they said 260 units, 16 units per acre.

Lucente had made a similar proposal about a decade ago, also called Varna II. Resistance to that project led to some very deliberate language in the Town Comprehensive Plan about gradual development and limiting development in the hamlets to smaller projects - around 20 units. That language has also made its way into the new drafts of the zoning law, and all I can figure is that Lucente hopes to slip this project through before the new zoning takes effect.

Yes, the location has access to water, sewer, and transit, and is along the likely railroad bed trail. And yes, they're working on stormwater issues. They hope to sell townhouse units to homeowners (for $150K to $200K) rather than rent them, and the plan also includes a possible 30,000 square feet of commercial space. They estimate ten years to complete the project, likely in three phases.

It's clear, however, that this is not really gradual densification. It's uncertain that the existing sewer system could carry the new load, though Fabbroni did suggest they would consider expanding it if necessary. It's on a slope steep enough to need a 25' retaining wall, in an odd location a ways from the road. And even apart from the question of density itself, the traffic impact of cars coming onto and off of Route 366 during the times that road is busiest raises questions in an area which was just handed a lower speed limit because of traffic dangers.

I'll have a lot more on this over time, as I have a chance to digest what was said and to look over the records from the old Varna II proposal. Right now, though, I'm pretty much hoping that this is Lucente's initial offer, presenting something ridiculous he knows will be bargained down. Otherwise, Varna's facing a drastic transformation it's already made clear it doesn't want, or yet another long fight.

Posted by simon at February 18, 2010 9:35 PM in , ,
Note on photos


Linda Clougherty said:

Eight houses were built across the road from my house in recent years and the traffic at times is "heavy." I don't want to think what 170 or more new residences would do to a community!