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By Lisa Loomis
After another lengthy hearing on whether to allow access on a Waitsfield road to a Fayston subdivision, the Waitsfield Select Board deferred decision making until board chair Elwin Neill Jr. can weigh in on the project.
On December 11, the board continued its hearing of the request by Robin and Jenny Morris to upgrade a portion of the Class 3 and Class 4 Old Center Fayston Road so that it can provide access to a seven-lot subdivision they are planning. The Old Center Fayston Road runs from Old County Road northeast to Center Fayston Road.
The Morrises have requested permission to upgrade about 65 feet of the Old Center Fayston Road to get to the Fayston town line where they already have permission from the Fayston Select Board to upgrade the Fayston portion of the Old Center Fayston Road. About 1935 feet of the Old Center Fayston Road in Fayston will need to be upgraded.
Their project entails a 134-acre parcel with 90 acres going into a conservation easement that restricts tree cutting, prohibits building and provides wildlife habitat corridors and recreational uses.
Residents and others who use the Old County Road for recreation have voiced concern about adding the additional traffic to a very defined neighborhood where there are several day cares and a fair amount of recreational and pedestrian use of the road.
Other residents, including Ken Quackenbush and Sis Kelly, have appeared before the board to voice concerns about water runoff, location of springs, and exhaust and noise from cars if the road is widened and improved. Quackenbush, at a meeting two weeks ago, asked the board how his spring in the right of way of the road might be safeguarded and Kelly, this week, asked the board to ensure that the road is not raised further - increasing the differential between her parking area and the road even beyond what it is currently.
At the previous hearing road residents Amy Rochford and Eleanor D'Apponte asked the select board to require that the applicants give at least some consideration to accessing the development from the Center Fayston Road, which they said is less of a neighborhood and better designed to handle the kind of traffic this project will generate.
The Morrises, at this week's hearing, presented a letter detailing their choice of access through Waitsfield. They note that Waitsfield and Fayston share multiple services and municipal entities including the fire station and ambulance service, the health center and the shopping centers. In a letter to the board they detail the mileage differences to travel from their subdivision to the fire station, ambulance station, health center and shopping center from each point of access.
Via Waitsfield, it is 1.47 miles to the fire and ambulance versus 4.03 from the Center Fayston Road. The health center is 1.42 miles from the Old County Road access versus 3.98 miles from Center Fayston Road and the shopping center is 2.52 miles from the Waitsfield side and 5.08 from the Fayston side.
That mileage difference is compounded by the steepness of access from the Fayston side where longer portions of the road would have to be improved. Waitsfield Fayston Fire Department chief Delbert Palmer was present at this week's meeting to urge the board to approve access from the Waitsfield side so that emergency response times could be that much faster.
The Morrises also calculated that, at full build, accessing their subdivision from Center Fayston Road rather than from Waitsfield will cause an additional 63,875 miles to be driven annually 'over a steeper, less safe road network.'
"At an average of 20 miles per gallon, this would require almost 3200 gallons per year of additional gasoline consumption," they wrote in their letter.
"I see two issues here. One is the impact on the neighborhood and the other is the issue of the road itself. In a way, it is unfortunate that this development is accessible from two directions. Its impact on a neighborhood is important, yet Robin and Jenny Morris have made convincing arguments regarding the environmental impact and cost in terms of emissions of having people drive the long way around," said acting select board chair Charlie Hosford.
Sis Kelly told the board that the Old Center Fayston Road by her driveway was already raised by three or four feet to allow for a private residence, which Fayston permitted 14 years ago. That raising has already caused her to have to park further from her house and caused runoff problems, she said. She asked the board to consider the impact of road improvements on her air quality and quality of life as well as her ability to access her parking area.
"In 10 years I'm going to be 90 and I don't think I should have to park on the ice. I used to have a level driveway and now I don't. Just above me is the steepest part of the road and I'm concerned about cars accelerating to get up it and I'm concerned that if the road is widened we'll lose the bank on the lower side and affect the drainage," Kelly said.