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Howell planners question subdivision application seeking eight homes

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HOWELL – Members of the Howell Planning Board will hear further testimony on Sept. 20 regarding an application that seeks to subdivide more than 17 acres on West Farms Road and to permit the construction of eight homes.

Edward and Lourdes McNamee, the applicants and owners, are seeking preliminary major subdivision approval to subdivide a 17.4-acre tract into eight single-family residential lots in an Agricultural Rural Estate 2 zone at 334 West Farms Road.

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Attorney Lawrence Luttrell and engineer Walter Hopkin represented the applicant at the board’s July 19 meeting. The tract has 1,000 feet of frontage on West Farms Road and is between Casino Drive and George Tavern Road.

Hopkin described the surrounding properties’ uses as “similar and compatible.”

“To the north of the property is residential. On the other side of the street to the south is a church and a private school. To the east it looks like there is a landscape nursery and to the west is residential as well,” Hopkin said.

He said while eight homes would be built, more than 81 percent of the property would be preserved in its natural state, including an area of wetlands. He said a municipal ordinance requires homes to be set back 50 feet from the road and the applicant is proposing a 100-foot setback. Each home would be served by a septic system and a well, according to the testimony.

“We are trying to preserve as much vegetation in the front as possible,” Hopkin said.

Testimony from the applicant and discussion among the board members indicated the homes would be clustered on West Farms Road and require less road construction and maintenance than other types of residential development.

The board’s professionals clarified there would be “less public improvement” so there would be less road that would need to be maintained and fewer utilities.

Luttrell said the rural character of the area would be preserved.

Howell Police Chief Andrew Kudrick, who sits on the board, said West Farms Road between Georgia Tavern Road and Casino Drive has traffic concerns and he described it as a targeted enforcement area.

“In the past two years, two of my patrol cars have been totaled as a result of people speeding,” Kudrick said.

He said he regularly takes that route, has lived in that area for more than 20 years, in Howell for more than 40 years and knows the character and the nature of the road.

“There is a hill crest if you are heading east on West Farms Road past the intersection of Georgia Tavern Road. There is a hill crest right there and if there is a vehicle heading east that has stopped to make a left turn into either of the first two driveways (Lot 25.01 and Lot 25.02), there is absolutely going to be a sight line problem with a vehicle approaching from behind (the stopped vehicle),” Kudrick said.

He asked the applicant if there was a traffic study regarding that concern. The applicant had not conducted a traffic study at the time of the July meeting.

Kudrick said he would prefer a cul-de-sac over driveways on an open road.

“(A cul-de-sac would mean) fewer entrances onto West Farms Road, fewer chances of people stopping and making turns and getting hit from behind. That section of West Farms Road has been notorious for speeding complaints for many, many years. I could basically post a patrol officer there 24 hours a day and still continue to get speeders no matter what,” the chief said.

The board carried the application to the Sept. 20 meeting.

In other business, board member William Gotto, a former mayor of Howell, submitted his resignation. July 19 was Gotto’s final meeting as a member of the panel.

“I owe my start on the board to (Gotto),” Chairman Robert Nash said. “Former Mayor Gotto had just been elected, I had put in a resume to join the Planning Board and I was fortunate enough that he was favorable to my appointment.”

Nash thanked Gotto and told him, “I am sure the board wishes you luck in whatever your future endeavors are.” Nash said he would be honored if Gotto returns to the board at some point in the future.

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