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Jackson board considers plan for homes, apartments, house of worship

JACKSON — Testimony on an applicant’s plan to construct single-family homes, affordable rental units and a house of worship on a 159-acre parcel is expected to resume during the Sept. 7 meeting of the Jackson Planning Board.

During a meeting on June 15, members of the board and the public heard a presentation from representatives of Swanborne, LLC, which is seeking preliminary and final major subdivision approval and preliminary and final major site plan approval for a project it proposes on a property bounded by East Veterans Highway (Route 528) to the north, South Hope Chapel Road (Route 547) to the east and Whitesville Road (Route 527) to the south and west.

Attorney John Giunco represents the applicant. Planner Ian Borden presented the application to the board.

According to a legal notice published prior to the meeting, the application proposes to subdivide the property to permit the construction of an inclusionary residential development with 253 units, including 205 single-family homes (two existing residences will remain); a lot for the construction of six buildings containing a total of 48 rental units that would be affordable to very low, low and moderate income families and individuals; and a lot for the construction of a two-story house of worship.

The property is in Jackson’s Regional Growth 2 zone and the proposed uses are conditionally permitted in that zone. The development would be served by public water and sewer utilities.

Swanborne, LLC, is seeking conditional use variance relief to permit the affordable housing buildings to have eight units per building, where a local ordinance permits a maximum of four units per building. A previous plan proposed 42 units of affordable housing; that number has now been increased to 48 units.

During his testimony, Borden covered many aspects of the application. He said a buffer would be provided to separate wetlands on the property from the areas to be developed.

Borden said the plan proposes an outdoor recreation area that would include a basketball court, a toddler play area and play structure, and a nature trail. There will not be a recreation building at the site.

Borden said the residential portion of the project would be constructed in three phases; the first phase would consist of 78 homes and one affordable housing building; the second phase would add 64 homes and three affordable housing buildings; and the third phase would add 61 homes and two affordable housing buildings.

The minimum lot size for the homes is 10,000 square feet (approximately a quarter-acre) and that meets Jackson’s requirements, according to Borden, who said no variances are being requested for any of the single-family lots.

The affordable housing buildings would be two stories under 35 feet in height, and of the 48 rental units there would be 12 two-bedroom apartments and 36 three-bedroom apartments, all with parking spaces provided, according to the testimony.

In making the case for a variance to be granted, Borden said he believes the site is suitable for buildings with eight residential units and he said that in his opinion a variance can be granted “at no substantial impact to the public good.”

Regarding the proposed house of worship, Borden said it is planned on the eastern portion of the site, off South Hope Chapel Road. He said a house of worship is a permitted use in the zone, subject to certain conditions.

Religious services would be conducted in the 8,700-square-foot building on a daily basis. There would be a social room in the building, but no weddings or school operations would occur in the house of worship, according to the planner’s testimony.

The house of worship is proposed for a 5-acre lot where 2-acre lots are required, and its 35-foot height complies with the local ordinance, according to Borden.

One issue that came up during Borden’s testimony was the acknowledgement by Giunco that the Swanborne application, which has been the subject of discussion for several years, has a General Development Plan (GDP).

The GDP is an overall layout of what an applicant is proposing at a site, but it does not include a specific description of each element of the planned development. Details are provided when each element is presented to the Planning Board.

Planning Board member James Hurley said the Swanborne GDP does not include a house of worship.

Giunco said the current proposal is “substantially similar” to the GDP that was approved. The attorney said while the GDP is not being abandoned, there are “modifications” being proposed.

The discussion of that point ended without a conclusion as to whether the GDP would require an amendment to include a house of worship.

The Swanborne application was opened to public comment after almost two hours of testimony by Borden and discussion of the application among Borden, Giunco, board members and the board’s professionals.

Resident Cindy Zanki of East Veterans Highway offered her thoughts on the proposed project and said, “I feel the high density is going to affect the neighborhood. It can take me 10 minutes to get out of my driveway now. At certain times it takes 15 minutes. That is my main concern.

“Another concern is people coming out of the development. And, most of the lots (in the area) are 1 acre. This (proposal) is not consistent with the neighborhood of 1-acre and 3-acre lots,” Zanki said, questioning the quarter-acre lots that are proposed in the Swanborne application.

“This (project) is going to have a major impact on the area,” she said.

Zanki said she was opposed to granting a variance that would permit eight apartments in each affordable housing building.

No decision on the Swanborne, LLC, application was reached on June 15 and the application was carried to the board’s Sept. 7 meeting.

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