FREEPORT — The Project Review Board on June 20 unanimously approved a conceptual plan to divide a 38-acre plot of land on Route 1 into nine separate lots for future commercial development.
CF Cousins River, LLC proposes to subdivide the parcel to provide “attractive commercial development lots” on the site, which is zoned for the use along the Route 1 corridor. According to the plans, approximately 20 acres would be used for the development.
The development project drew some fire from abutters, who said the proposal would negatively impact their neighborhood.
The site, which is now vacant, sits at an unassigned address adjacent to Pillars Antiques and across Route 1 from Napa Auto Parts.
“(This is) just dividing the land for potential developers that are allowed in the zone,” said Jason Vafiades of Atlantic Resource Consultants, who represented CF Cousins River. “You’re looking at what could potentially be a big development, but it’s piecemeal.”
Vafiades estimated that, if plans were to move forward, the board might see applications for development on one or two of the lots in the next six months.
“This isn’t the type of project where, next month, you’ll see nine site plan applications come in,” he said.
Still, residents of Shady Ledge Lane said they weren’t comfortable with all of the unknowns and the impact future developments could have on their residential neighborhood.
Erin and Jeremy Clough, of 8 Shady Ledge Lane, disagreed with the board’s classification of the proposal as a “minor subdivision,” saying it should instead be held to the standards of a major subdivision.
Town Planner Donna Larson said the difference between a major and minor subdivision is the addition of a preliminary review between conceptual review and final approval.
“(The applicant) submitted everything that was needed for … the preliminary application of a major subdivision,” she noted, excluding a capacity letter from the sewer district.
“We have had conversations with (the sewer district) saying that they do have the capacity,” Larson said. “They also made it clear that they’ll have to review every application as it comes in for site plan review because this is just the subdivision of land … As each lot gets built out they’ll have to come back for site plan review.”
Erin Clough urged the board to reject the proposal at a conceptual level and implored them to “question whether it’s good for Freeport as a whole.”
“(This proposal) is not consistent with smart growth … Route 1 is already rampant with vacant commercial space,” she said. “(It’s) disproportionately large (and) does not evoke a small-town feel or design standard.”
Clough said she and other neighbors had met with the applicant a few times to discuss buffering between the subdivision and Shady Ledge Lane, which could entail planting about 25 trees between the neighborhood and CF Cousins River’s land.
“(Adding trees) would still do very little to ease the disruption to our neighborhood,” Erin Clough said.
Applicant Mike Cianchette, of CF Cousins River, said it was hard to know what they were buffering for without knowing what the developments might be.
“It’s a little bit of a challenge … Kind of a chicken and egg situation,” he said, adding they have received some interest in the properties from potential developers, but nothing final.
Jeremy Clough also addressed the board with “major concerns” about the project as well.
“It doesn’t feel like there’s anyone in our corner as neighbors and abutters,” he said. “I don’t understand how we can make any decisions until we know what this is … (I) implore you to think of the town and the community as a whole rather than one developer.”
Larson stressed the approval was “not the end of the line.” In addition to the applicant coming back for a public hearing and final approval, she noted that each potential developer would need to come before the board for conceptual, preliminary and final site plan approval.
Larson said the applicant’s deadline for submitting documents for final approval was June 27, but as of 3 p.m. June 26, the department had not received any.
According to the application, it is anticipated that construction of the subdivision road and infrastructure could begin in late summer or fall once required approvals have been granted.
“The schedule of work on the newly created lots will be governed by market forces and permit reviews,” the application said. “Development of the individual lots will be subject to further approvals through the (project review board) … depending on the nature and scale of the proposed (projects) may trigger additional state permitting.”
CF Cousins River, LLC wants to subdivide nearly 38 acres that now stand vacant on Route 1 across from NAPA Auto Parts into nine lots for commercial use.