Planning Board approves new plans on Gloucester Hill Road and an expansion on Intervale Road

| Joanne Cole, NGX |

Applications for a new single-family home on the east side of Gloucester Hill Road just below the Opportunity Farm barn, a two-lot subdivision and home on the west side of Gloucester Hill Road, and expanded facilities at Cunningham Farm on Intervale Road were the focus of Planning Board meetings in late August and early September.  All three projects were ultimately approved with conditions.

Of greatest public interest was Warren Gerow’s application for a single-family home in the Opportunity Farm field across from the Morrison Center.  Because the location is within the Historic District, more-stringent site and design requirements apply and the project must be reviewed by the Historical Society as well as the Planning Board.  Gerow was before the board seeking waivers of requirements for a close-contour site map, an erosion and sedimentation plan, and a stormwater runoff plan. 

At the board’s August 20 preliminary review, Alan Gregory, liaison from the Historical Society, contended that Gerow’s application lacked required items, including photos of adjacent properties and the appropriate contour map of the site.  Discussion turned to the reasons behind the requirements and how the board should handle requests to waive them.  For example, is a detailed contour map necessary, given that board members would soon make a site visit anyway?

Beverly Cadigan, current president of the Historical Society and former liaison to the Planning Board, argued that the requirements “are in the ordinance for a reason.”  “You can’t just overlook them,” Cadigan said. “The application is the record on this.” She also noted that the ordinance and its requirements were voted on and approved by residents.  In the end, the board granted the waivers and declared the application complete, subject to code enforcement oversight and Gerow’s submitting additional photographs.  The board then scheduled a site walk and public hearing. 

At the public hearing on Gerow’s application, on September 3, speakers identified concerns about preserving the open hillside and historic views from the top of Gloucester Hill, as well as the safety of the proposed driveway and how storm runoff would be managed.  Resident Cathy Gregory described as “defining” the views from the hilltop and urged that no fence or other barrier block the view from the road, something the Historical Society also requested.  Gregory asked for a landscaping plan that would minimize disturbance of the open pasture.  

Downhill abutter Jean Libby wanted to ensure that the driveway would be wide enough to allow safe turning onto Gloucester Hill Road.  Libby painted a picture of trucks barreling over the hill at speed, just as someone turns into or pulls out of the driveway. To preserve an existing stone wall along the roadside, the Historical Society had asked that any breach for a driveway be limited to two rods (33 feet) or less. 

Abutter Steve Libby, whose home is also downhill from the Gerow parcel, echoed the need for a safe driveway design, but his main concern was managing stormwater runoff.  Over the years, Libby’s culverts proved to be no match for powerful storms.  “Don’t underestimate the stormwater runoff on Gloucester Hill Road,” he said.  “Hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of yards of gravel” have wound up on his property.  As for Gerow’s distinctive site and the views, Libby said, “It would be nice if it were a field forever, but he bought it.  He can put in a house.  I think it’s going to fit in the best that he can.”   

The board appeared to take the public comments into consideration.  They approved Gerow’s application with conditions that no fence, hedge, or other obstruction block the historic view, and no breach be made in the stone wall beyond what is needed for a safe driveway and adequate drainage.  The driveway must be designed following best practices and with code enforcement oversight to minimize stormwater runoff.    

A second application before the board involved Gloucester Hill Road, this one at 339 Gloucester Hill Road, on the west side.  A property transfer that Clyde Morrison said he’d hoped would be simple—a parcel for his sister and one for himself—turned out to technically constitute a minor subdivision, triggering detailed review under New Gloucester’s ordinances.  The board ultimately waived requirements for a hydrological study, a future road plan, and stone boundary markers, and on September 3 approved both the subdivision and a house proposed for the rear of the lot.

Finally, sailing through board review was a request by Tanner Maguire to expand a barn at Cunningham Farm, a wedding and event venue on Intervale Road.  The expansion would create space for catering and for bathrooms, reducing the need for tents, trailers, and portapotties.  Maguire explained that the change would not expand the operation beyond its current scale but rather “maintain the aesthetic of the original farm look.”  After checking that the water supply and systems were up to the task, the Board voted to dispense with a public hearing and site walk, and approved Maguire’s application on September 3.

Video of the Planning Board’s August 20 meeting is available here, and of the September 3 meeting here.

Site drawing from Warren Gerow application showing proposed house and driveway locations on Gloucester Hill Road