Ferry Street hearing finally closed

by Town Reminder

Ferry Street hearing finally closed
Planning Board decision coming in 90 days

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer, kwill@turley.com

SOUTH HADLEY – The 90-day time limit clock began ticking for the Planning Board regarding their decision whether or not to allow Rivercrest Condominiums’ development of condominiums after the board’s longest public hearing was brought to a close Oct. 3.
Rivercrest Condominiums, LLC, owned by Edward J. Ryan and operating under Craig Authier, is proposing to develop half of a 10.8-acre parcel of land with condominium units on Ferry Street, near Brockway Lane. A small section of the property is zoned agricultural and consists of a mix of upland and wetland. The majority of the property is zoned Residence A-1. This zoning does not allow multi-family dwellings, such as condominiums, to be built, however, a special permit may be obtained by the developer and approved of by the Planning Board to do so. The original number of 31 units has continually been reduced throughout the multiple public hearings, coming to rest at a final number of 27. Additional changes to the design include the development now being constructed 200 feet away from the roadway.
The closing of the public hearing brought to an end lengthy, heated discussions and remarks repeated under the breath from those on both camps – with some individuals even walking out of the hearing. The Friends of Ferry Street and Rivercrest Condominiums seem to have exhausted all avenues and efforts to make their points known and clear. Rivercrest Condominiums will take no less than a 27-unit complex, alleging anything fewer is not economical. Friends of Ferry Street want nothing more than two to six single-family homes. The Planning Board has to grapple with a decision amidst zoning bylaw reviews and the 2010 acceptance of the Master (Comprehensive) Plan.
“I also care very deeply about the future of our town,” said Bob Szklarz, a resident of Amherst Road. “If this project is not approved, we’ll get a bigger development. I think that a Master Plan is just that – a plan. We use that as a guideline to plan our future.”
Ferry Street resident and Friends of Ferry Street member Robert Lak said, “It’s mainly about the density. If you start taking about barriers and buffers, well, a barrier is to separate two separate entities. They’re not the same character, same type. “
Following the official closing, the Planning Board set to work reviewing their data. Planning Board Member Jeremy King asked the board to considerer a number of condominium units between the maximum number allowed through Flexible Development and the Rivercrest Condominium minimum number of 27. The board debated for a while, crunching Flexible Development numbers, but the consulting attorney currently being used – as Rivercrest owner Ryan is South Hadley’s Town Counsel – recommended the Planning Board not follow Flexible Development so closely. His reason was Rivercrest Condominiums did not apply for Flexible Development in the first place, and should the Planning Board ever be challenged in court regarding the decision if they followed Flexible Development, the issue would be overturned.
The Planning Board then set out to define among themselves terms such as “adjacent,” “neighborhood,” “buffer,” and “scale” in great detail. These terms will assist the board in determining if the proposed development should be allowed or denied.
The meeting lasted nearly four hours with Planning Board members hashing out the nitty-gritty details. The meeting was continued until the Planning Board’s next meeting on Oct. 17.