While Town Plan and Zoning Commission Chairman Ozzie Parente didn’t agree with all the reasons why residents were opposed to a proposed Cottage Project Development Area (CPDA) in their backyards, he did agree Turkey Hill Road was not the best spot for the plan.
The TPZC unanimously denied the application submitted by Richard Meisenheimer that would have permitted a zone change to allow the construction of about 40 one and two-bedroom residential units for people age 55 and up. The proposed units were to range in size from 800 to 1,800 square feet and be priced in the $300,000-$400,000 range. The plan called for a walkable community that would feature recreational amenities, private walking trails, community buildings and passive outdoor recreation.
Neighbors turned out in force at a public hearing to oppose the plan citing increased traffic, overburdening town services and Turkey Hill School; and overdevelopment of the area as reasons why the plan was not a good fit for the neighborhood. The Commission did receive letters in favor of the project from townspeople who signed a form letter distributed by representatives of the applicant, but the majority of the supporters did not live in the vicinity of the project.
Parente maintains that he wasn’t persuaded by residents’ claims that traffic would be significantly impacted by the project. “Turkey Hill Road is a cut-through road that people from that neck of the woods use to access the highways and the center of town. It didn’t strike me that the project Mr. Meisenheimer had in mind with older people living there was going to be as much traffic as opposed to homeowners with families running kids in and out all day,” he said. Other board members cited concern that the project would have septic systems rather than be tied to city sewer lines and an over-intensive use of the property as reasons to deny the plan.
But what did strike home for Parente and was a deciding factor in his and the board’s ruling, was homeowners’ expectations when they moved to Orange. “They relied on that acre and a half zoning and a reasonable expectation is that it is going to stay that way,” he said. “A project like this can be done in town because the regulations provide for it in other places – just not there, in a residential zone.”
Jeff Gordon, president, Codespoti & Associates and one of Meisenheimer’s representatives on the project, said he was disappointed by the outcome. “Nobody wants something that looks different to what they have. They even will oppose applications that are the same as what they have, if it is in their backyard,” he said, maintaining that not all seniors want to live in the light industrial or commercial zones that are currently appropriated for these types of developments in Orange, generally along the Post Road. “This was as reasonable an application for an age-restricted community as the Town will ever see. This application had a density equal or less than the current single-family zone when you consider the occupants per acre. It permitted only 4 bedrooms per acre. I believe this could well have a chilling effect on any private investment to provide for the seniors in Town.”
Parente pointed out that Meisenheimer is free to bring a new development plan before the board. “If he submits a subdivision plan that meets our regulations we have no choice but to approve it so the people in area may find that to be more burdensome on the infrastructure – but who knows—that remains to be seen,” he said.
By Laura Fantarella – Orange Town News Correspondent