Housing cluster crosses hurdle

NASHUA – The Zoning Board of Adjustment has approved a local development firm’s request for a special exception to build a 40-lot single-family cluster housing project on 12.5 acres owned by the 1590 Broadcasting Corp. at 502 W. Hollis St.

The board unanimously endorsed the plan by the Picard-Bonnette Real Estate firm Tuesday after setting down a condition that a 30-foot tree buffer around the site be left untouched to protect the privacy of homes that already exist in area.

Gerald Prunier, a lawyer for the developers, said his client opted to cluster the homes to preserve open space. The area is zoned R-9, meaning house lots must cover at least 9,000 square feet. Even without the clustering, the developers would be allowed to build the 40 homes under the city zoning ordinance, he said.

The proposal must still be approved by the Planning Board. The new homes would be “much more expensive” than houses that are in the area now, Prunier said, and clustering was proposed to “maintain the buffer and minimize the cutting of trees.”

Still, a handful of residents said the new development would encroach on their properties, disturb their privacy and could make water pressure and sewer problems worse in the area where several homeowners still get their drinking water from wells and have septic systems.

Because much of the area sits on ledge, blasting will be required for the new homes, and that worries residents concerned about their wells being contaminated.

“If blasting wrecks our wells, we have no methodology to get water to homes,” said Bob Barber of 20 Pitarys Drive, who was among the homeowners who successfully fought a plan to build a Shaw’s supermarket in the area about three years ago.

Prunier and the board said blasting concerns would be dealt with by the Planning Board, but normally homes are videotaped before and after blasting for insurance purposes. Blasting is also regulated by the fire department, officials said.

Traffic is another concern. West Hollis Street is already extremely busy, making it difficult for residents such as Barber to make left turns onto their streets. There are three street entrances within 500 feet in the area, with only one traffic signal, he said, and residents often have to rely on motorists who take the time to stop and allow them to turn to get to their homes.

And the traffic problem will only get worse next year, residents said, when, after extensive renovations and rebuilding, Nashua High School South will be fully operational, serving students in grades nine through 12.

“When Nashua High School lets outs, I would not want to be on that road because traffic is horrific,” one woman said.

But Prunier said his clients paid for a traffic study even though the city’s Traffic Department said one was wasn’t warranted. Both the _city and independent consultants concluded the new development wouldn’t significantly disrupt traffic on West Hollis Street, he said.

Moreover, Prunier said, a new street that would run through the development to Larchmont Drive, a small road near White Plains Drive not currently used, would be gated. The gate would be opened only if emergency vehicles needed access to the area, he said.

In approving the plan, the board set down a condition that an easement be granted that would allow residents on wells to hook up to municipal water lines. But Barber and others with wells said the hookups would just mean they’d have to pay for city water, which they don’t have to do now.

“It’s just going to cost me to hook up, so I’ll have another bill I don’t have now,” he said.

Resident John Bois said he still runs a farm in the area, with pigs and cows, and expects children from the new development will venture onto his land, curious about the animals.

He is also worried about storm water runoff from the new development affecting his property, but engineers for Picard-Bonnette said a storm water management plan would ensure that runoff wouldn’t be a problem.

Bois said after the meeting that he wasn’t surprised by the board’s decision, because development in the area is inevitable given the R-9 zoning.

“But we’re going to see all of those homes and we’re not going to have any privacy at all,” he said.