China Planning Board members had a long meeting April 10, starting with a public hearing on Susan and Wesley Horton’s proposed leadership development camp on Three Mile Pond and going on to approve the camp and hear preliminary plans for a new Dollar General Store just outside South China Village.
After testimony from a dozen of the close to 20 neighbors and other interested parties who attended the Hortons’ hearing or sent written comments, board members voted unanimously that the project met all criteria in China’s land use ordinance.
At their next meeting they need to review written findings of fact that justify their decision and sign formal approval. (ep)
Neighbors had three main concerns: the appearance that the Hortons had started their camp before getting a town permit, traffic on Pond Hill Road and the degree of supervision that would be exercised over the young clients.
The Hortons bought the almost-45-acre property last fall planning to use it as a transition from their Ironwood Maine facility, in Morrill, where troubled teens are treated for up to a year, to the youngsters’ homes, colleges or other settings. Since then, they said, they have had young adults staying there – a use they consider similar to the property’s prior use by Maersk as a corporate retreat, and not the same as their proposed future use.
The incoming clients will come voluntarily and will normally stay three months, Susan Horton said. The Hortons plan to have no more than 10 clients on site at a time, with two and frequently during the day three staff members. The clientele does not include criminals or recovering drug addicts.
Several nearby residents mentioned increased traffic, sometimes well into the evening. The evening vehicles might be night staffers coming to work, the Hortons suggested. One of the current residents does have a car; none of the future 16- and 17-year-old residents will, they said.
Asked by planning board member Ronald Breton if they followed up on a neighbor’s complaint about an offensive snow sculpture, Wesley Horton said that evening he brought a letter from the offender, who has apologized, to the neighbor.
Three members of the French family, who helped take care of the property when it was a corporate retreat, believe the new use will be good for the neighborhood. Gary French said current “very respectful” residents had invited them for a meal. Marsha French commented that Maersk used to have up to 20 guests at a time, “very heavy partiers, [making] a lot of noise that echoed across that lake.
The Dollar General store is proposed for a one-acre lot on the southwest corner of the intersection of Route 3 and Windsor Road. Todd Hamula, Senior Development Manager for the Zaremba Group leading the project, and engineer Chris Nadeau of Nobis Engineering brought an array of maps and plans.
The planned entrance to the store parking lot will be off Windsor Road, on the south side of the property. The sight distance does not quite meet the state Department of Transportation’s required 125 feet, but DOT has granted a waiver allowing the driveway, Nadeau said.
Board members were unhappy with traffic issues, phosphorus control on such a small lot and the septic system. Audience members questioned the need for another dollar store in South China.
The board asked for more information to support the DOT waiver. Members are especially concerned about drivers turning south from Route 3 onto Windsor Road colliding with vehicles entering or exiting the store parking area.
Codes Officer Paul Mitnik said with a small lot more than half covered by a building and pavement, meeting China’s Phosphorus Control Ordinance requirements is probably impossible. He said state rules, which he thinks the planning board could use but is not required to use, allow a developer to compensate with a payment that would be used to control phosphorus run-off somewhere else.
No one present could remember China’s using the payment provision. Planning Board Chairman Tom Miragliuolo said his initial reaction is that payment would be “morally wrong,” though he is willing to hear more about the idea.
Mitnik said the proposed septic system is inadequate. Nadeau agreed, saying the design is wrong and has been sent back to the designer.
Hamula said he talked with the neighbor to the south about the type of boundary she would like between the parking lot and her property; they agreed on evergreens, probably arborvitae, instead of a fence.
The result of the planning board discussion was a unanimous vote that Dollar General’s application is not complete and needs changes before the board can begin review. Miragliuolo said the decision is not a rejection of the application, and board members will continue informal discussions as necessary.
When a complete application is submitted the planning board is likely to schedule a public hearing. At the April 10 meeting, no date was set for further discussion.
See previous stories about teen camp: