Planning Board votes to allow Foxhollow developer to eliminate stone wall

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At Monday’s Planning Board meeting, the board voted unanimously that a subdivision developer is within their rights to eliminate plans to reconstruct a 400-foot stone wall behind three homes in the Foxhollow Road development off Pond Street.

The stone wall was to serve in part as a permanent immovable barrier (PIB) behind Lots 10-12 to discourage encroachment into the abutting forest and the buffer zones. However, engineer Eric Dias of Tunison Dias, representing the applicant, FTC Foxhollow, noted that there already exists a rock-covered slope, and there are conservation markers on the trees — satisfying the Conservation Commission. The wall was to go a few feet past the bottom of the slope, just in front of the tree line. Adding to the concern, there are septic systems at the bottom of the slope, as they were relocated from the front of the lots.

The homeowners have expressed support for eliminating the wall plan.

Planning Board Chair Gary Trendel said he was more concerned with procedure than anything else.

“I struggle a little bit with this because the drawings do show that the wall is to be relocated,” Trendel said. “At the same time, I recognize there’s a couple of problems. Number one, I’m not sure that that affects the decision criteria. … Two, the reality was even if we did require them to build this stone wall, they would be building it with new stones they had to truck in, they would be building it over a septic system on three pieces of private property that don’t necessarily want the stone wall.

“So I kind of feel like as a board we’re in a tough position here, because as much as we love to preserve stone walls, we’re also in a bit of a position where there doesn’t seem to be — to me anyways — there doesn’t seem to be a good outcome.”

Principal Planner John Gelcich noted that despite the wall being on the plan, it’s not covered under a bylaw.

“There is no requirement in the regulations to provide for stone walls,” he said. “So we really need some kind of deficiency in terms of the regulations to have a no vote on this. If it was a condition, that’s something different, because a condition is something the applicant would have essentially agreed do. But there was no condition to require stone walls to be installed. So this one’s a tricky one to enforce.”

Charles Dauchy from Hopkinton Area Land Trust said his organization also saw no issue with removing the wall from the plan. The forested land is owned by the Sudbury Valley Trustees, deeded to them as part of the open space land preservation development.

Board discusses design standards

Following the Foxhollow public meeting, the board had discussions about making a proposal to the Community Preservation Committee for affordable housing as well as looking at possible changes to subdivision design standards.

“Hopefully everybody’s wheels are turning a little bit here,” Trendel said toward the end of the meeting. “I think all of us at times have been frustrated with the things that we end up approving that we don’t feel really good about. I think we have some opportunities to do some updates here and do some refreshes that I think will help us. [Member Fran DeYoung’s] comments really weigh on me too, that the developers are typically in the driver’s seat. How can we make some updates that help better align what developers are proposing to what we think makes a good community and development.”

That discussion was slated to be continued on Jan. 31.

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