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Proposed subdivision draws opposition in Duxbury

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02/14/2008

By Kara Herlihy

The Duxbury Development Review Board (DRB) heard an application for a proposed subdivision of 2,085 acres in Duxbury. The board held a public hearing Tuesday, February 12, for a proposed five-lot subdivision covering 2,085 acres on Dowsville Road. 

The applicant, Forcastle Timber Co. LLC, was represented at the hearing by consultant Gunner McCain, who fielded questions and concerns from several apprehensive abutting landowners and interested parties.

The proposed subdivision would split the 2,085 acres into five residential lots, each measuring approximately 28 acres, except for one large 2,200-acre tract, which McCain said would most likely remain in forestry use.

"My client would like to keep as much land in forestry as possible," McCain said. He also said that his client would like to keep the balance of the land in forestry as "long as we can," citing tax burden if the property is not sold.

A representative for an abutting landowner said that the proposed site is valued at $2.2 million and "pays taxes as if it were worth $400k." The remainder is paid by the state; the parcel pays roughly $180 per acre in taxes.

The proposed site for the subdivision is above 1,500 feet in elevation and, according to wildlife biologist John Buck, is host to critical wildlife habitat. Buck wrote a letter to the DRB stating that there was indeed critical wildlife habitat on the proposed site, per the request of an abutting landowner.

The proposed site is also specifically mentioned in the Duxbury Town Plan, a document McCain said was "aspirational" when compared with zoning regulations. The proposed site is within the timber management district and borders Camel's Hump State Park.  

The Town Plan discourages development on the Dowsville Road, citing critical wildlife habitat and the steep gradient. The Town Plan also says that it "hopes and expects" that the tract "remain in forestry use."

DRB member Wayne Walker said that the Town Plan mentions the site specifically because "the town doesn't want new roads in high elevations on terrible terrain."

Concerned abutters cited the 20 percent gradient of the road, a dangerous slope that if developed would create serious safety concerns. The narrow width of Dowsville Road was also mentioned as a concern should large trucks loaded with building materials try to navigate it.

McCain said that the owners of the proposed five lots would pay for the road maintenance of their accesses and the remainder of Dowsville that is not plowed by the Town.

Concerns over runoff were also discussed; McCain said they would implement a 24-inch culvert, which led abutters to question whether 24 inches would be big enough to handle the storm water. The proposed site and surrounding area was clear cut in the '90s and since then, according to landowners, brought silt and damaged critical wildlife habitat.

When questioned about the possibility of a conservation easement, McCain said his client has not considered one.

Because the proposed subdivision is only five lots, an Act 250 permit is not required, and the applicant can return in five years to propose another number of lots. "We're deciding on Pandora's box," one abutter said.

The DRB moved to continue the hearing until their next meeting, March 11, due to significant interest by abutting landowners and possibly a second site visit.

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