Planning Board Reviews Laurel Avenue Extension

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The Planning Board met on Monday, July 7 to discuss a possible extension to Laurel Avenue that would potentially allow for a new single family home to be built on Laurel Avenue. Discussions were continued at the time as there are many factors to consider, such as the steep grading and water runoff on Laurel Avenue. Presenting the plan at the meeting was developer Thomas Perna, engineer Patrick Burke, and attorney Doug Resnick who represented both Perna and the Dardinski family who are the current property owners.

Before coming to the Planning Board, Perna met with the Board of Appeals who determined that the lot Perna desires to build upon was a grandfathered lot and granted a special permit to build a single family home. Before a home can be built, the road extending to the lot must be built from a paper road into a proper road that comes as close to subdivision standards as possible. Laurel Avenue is currently a paper road that lies between Hillcrest Avenue and Downey Street in Hopkinton, with some work having been done at the Hillcrest end to facilitate the use of lots abutting Laurel Avenue. The current plan put forth by Perna and Burke proposed paving about 170 feet of roadway so that the improved road would reach the house lot. The home would tie in with existing water and sewer facilities further down the road and electric lines will come up the road.

Although Perna has been granted approval to build on the lot, there are challenges facing the project. Laurel Avenue has a steep grading of 18%, and there is an existing problem with water runoff, both of which were concerns for abutters. In order to mitigate the runoff problem, Perna proposed adding riprap to the sides of the road that would slow the flow of water down the hill and putting in a catch basin as part of a stormwater system that would mitigate the newly paved areas. Because there is no homeowner’s association for the homes in the area, the maintenance costs of the stormwater system will fall on future homeowners.

“Everything we’re doing trying to build a house seems to be fought, but we’re just trying to solve the water problem,” said Perna.

Because Laurel Avenue is only 12 feet wide and will be a dead end with the current plan, passing cars, the need for a turnaround and emergency vehicle access were all a concern for the Board, abutters and BETA Group peer reviewer Phil Paradis. An alternate plan to mitigate these issues proposed by Perna is to build up the hill from Downey Street instead of down from Hillcrest Avenue. Another alternate plan proposed by Paradis to mitigate all of these issues is to pave all of Laurel Avenue and make it a through way which would eliminate the need for a turnaround and create another escape route should the road entrance be blocked. It was also suggested that a through way could be made into a one-way road going downhill since there is not enough room for cars to bypass one another. Burke also stated that a one-way road would catch more water runoff, give more access for fire and emergency vehicles and grading would possibly work better and driveways could be leveled easier.

Abutters who were concerned with the idea of a one-way road going downhill stated that cars in the winter might crash because they cannot stop on an icy road, or might have trouble braking on the steep slope year-round. There have been car crashes on the road and it is hard to see around blind corners. Another concern was that salt and sand placed on the roads in winter would wash into the nearby lake. However, Burke stated that signage could be placed to direct traffic and another catch basin could be put at the bottom of the road to catch any additional runoff, including sand and salt.

An additional alternate plan suggested was to have the road be a one-way road starting from the bottom of the road. Although only cars that have 4 wheel drive can make it up the hill, it will mitigate the amount of cars trying to go downhill in the winter.

A letter of support written by the owner of the house at 47 Downey Street was presented to the Board because the homeowner felt that the water issues on Laurel Avenue would be improved. However, Board Chairman Ken Weismantel pointed out that additional pavement on the road would speed up water runoff and would be hard to catch with one catch basin because of the steep slope. Weismantel also stated that the current plan only shows impervious areas for water collection and pointed out a current watershed that would overflow during storms.

“If you’re going to design the system, you’ve got to handle all stormwater going into it or otherwise the system just doesn’t work,” said Weismantel.

Board member Claire Wright was also concerned that the water runoff at the bottom of the hill would not be absorbed easily because of the nearby lake and the potential that groundwater levels are higher than at the top of the hill.

“I’m sorry to see this whole road not be treated with one whole stormwater management issue instead of all these individual sites,” said Wright.

Also a concern to Wright was the fact that one person would be held responsible for the maintenance of the stormwater system on Laurel Avenue.

Although no groundwater was found when testing the site for groundwater levels, abutters noted that groundwater would likely be found in the spring and that water can be heard rushing through the nearby storm drains. Some abutters also had water on their properties after the recent storm on July 4.

After hearing all of the concerns and alternate plan ideas, Resnick recommended taking what was said and coming up with some alternate ideas for the plan. Resnick also stated that stormwater maintenance would be part of a deed restriction for future homeowners. Because no decision was reached, the hearing was continued to the August 25 Planning Board meeting.