Citizens Express Concerns At Planning Commission

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Screen Shot 2015-10-25 at 10.29.32 AMBy Terry Rogers

On Tuesday, October 20, the City of Milford Planning Commission held a public hearing on a request by Dave Kenton, President of Fork Landing LLC, to change 36 duplex lots to 12 residential lots in the Fork Landing subdivision, located off  Rt. 36 near Beaver Dam Road. This was a change from the original site plan and would not require any zoning changes in the subdivision.

“Originally, we thought that the duplexes would be beneficial to the housing market in Milford,” said Mr. Kenton. “I have been in discussions with a builder who believes that single-family homes would be more beneficial.” Ken Christianbury of Axiom Engineering explained that changing the sites from duplexes to single-family homes would reduce density in the subdivision and would provide a positive impact on neighbors.

Mr. Christianbury also explained that the developer would also be required to appear before the Board of Adjustments as changing the lots from duplexes to single-family homes would require a setback variance in order to match what has already been done with other homes in the area.

“I am in favor of this application being approved,” said Sudler Lofland who lives at 6 Columbia Street and owns property in Fork Landing. “It will allow the subdivision to last longer without becoming a rental area.”

However, not all residents of Fork Landing were in agreement that the homes planned for the lots would be beneficial to their property value. Several homeowners spoke to the commissioners about concerns regarding the builder who would be building the homes on the lots. Many claimed that the builder did not have a good reputation and that the workmanship they provided was substandard.

“If this builder constructs an inferior home, our property values will diminish,” said Jean Bielefeld who lives on Drummond Drive in Fork Landing. “We built our homes using quality builders. I feel that townhouses are very beneficial, especially to young families. We bought our homes with the understanding that others in Fork Landing would be built using the same quality. I’ve seen the work done by this builder and I think the homes will be substandard.” Ms. Bielefeld said that she had visited a site where the builder was constructing homes and found that the residences were built using “prefab materials” and that some of the concrete work seemed “off” to her.

Mr. Kenton disputed the concerns of the residents, stating that the builder was listed as one of the best builders in the state. He said that he had not found any complaints related to the quality of the builder’s work. He said that there may have been problems in the past, but that he was basing his opinion on the current work being done by the builder. Mr. Christianbury questioned whether it was common practice for the city to determine who could and could not build in subdivisions.

Rob Pierce, City Planner, agreed with Mr. Christianbury, stating that the builder could build anything they wanted within the subdivision as long as it met proper building code. He said that even without approval, the same builder could construct the duplexes that were already approved on the site.

“The choice of builder is not within the Planning Commission’s jurisdiction,” said David Rutt, City of Milford Solicitor. “This is not a change of zoning where property values may be taken into consideration. This is a change of site plan and the commission must only make their decision based on whether the request met the requirements set forth in city code.” Mr. Rutt explained that if the commission approved the request, he could not advise the homeowners on what to do in the event their property values did diminish due to poor workmanship by the builder.

Tim Brown, who also lives on Drummond Drive, said that he did not believe any of the residents of Fork Landing had objections to changing the lots from duplexes to single family homes. He said that their main concern was poorly constructed homes that would diminish their property value.

Mr. Rutt also explained that the commission could include the variance request in their motion, allowing the developer to avoid the Board of Adjustment hearing. Since the setback variance already existed in the development on other properties, the Planning Commission could approve it and send it to city council. The commission approved the request unanimously and included the variances in the motion, thereby allowing Mr. Kenton to avoid the Board of Adjustment hearing. A public hearing will be held before City Council on November 23, 2015.