A standing room only crowd of Nevins Adult Community residents filled the Moose Hill meeting room for a Planning Board discussion on a proposed public walking trail along the perimeter of the development. After the issue was aired, the board voted unanimously to remove the proposed trail from the site plan.
The proposed walking trail that garnered so much attention at the Wednesday, May 5 meeting has not been constructed but is included in the original site plan for the adult development. Planning Board chairman Arthur Rugg asked for a show of hands from the audience of those present because of the Nevins matter, and every hand in the room was raised.
The board granted a waiver that the completed checklist be submitted and that the application to remove the trail be accepted as complete. Both passed unanimously.
Nashua attorney Morgan Hollis, representing the Nevins board of directors and the developers of the property, said that after a couple of votes taken on the issue by residents, they determined the residents did not want the trail and wanted it removed from the site plans so it would not be built.
“This began in 2009, and my developer client has indicated that it began when they began to put piles of wood chips and some signs indicating that the public would enter the walking trail at certain places,” Hollis said. That was when residents realized it was a public walking trail, he said.
“Even though it was on an approved plan, not everyone realized it,” Hollis said. “It wasn’t constructed and so you move forward to 2009 and the realization is that the plan is going to be in some fashion constructed.”
Hollis said that was when some homeowners approached the developer and asked whether the trail could be removed. The developer then went to the planning board and had discussions on the matter. Rugg had said there had been precedents. “During that time since 2009, plans have been made and cost estimates have been prepared and there has been discussion, and now the time has come,” Hollis said.
“In 2009 the developer met with the board of directors and the board of directors called for a meeting with the then homeowners and called for a straw vote.” The straw poll was unanimous that the homeowners wanted the trail idea removed.
“Here we are in 2013, when the decision was made that we ought to make this final and formal,” Hollis said.
Hollis said they would create a new site plan indicating homes, and the trail would be removed from it. What complicates the issue is that it is a public trail, which means that would necessitate additional documents and going before the Town Council, which would have to release the walking trail, “much like they do a road if it is discontinued.
“Sometimes you realize that the best laid plans are not the best laid plans, and having a public walking trail in a private development is not such a good idea,” Hollis said. “There are a number of areas where the proximity of the trail is between 15 and 20 feet from homes.”
Town Planner Cynthia May said staff had looked into the possibility of relocating the trail on the property to move it farther away from homes and found that was not a viable option due to wetlands.
Board member Tom Freda asked if the development was a cooperative or a condominium and Hollis said it was a cooperative.
Freda said a letter received by the town from Hollis said the estimated cost of construction that would be saved would be given at a rate of 50 percent to the town.
“We simply made a proposal – the developer would be paying it, not the association, because it’s obviously a savings of the developer, so the developer is prepared to pay that fee,” Hollis said. “I simply suggested that the board might decide which way it wants to go with this fee.”
Freda asked when the last vote was taken by the homeowners and Hollis said it was this year.
Board member John Laferriere asked if there were a trail on site before the development, and Hollis said there was not. Laferriere also asked if the trail was used as a marketing tool, and Hollis said it was shown on the site plan.
Board member Mary Soares asked if there were sidewalks in the community and Hollis said they were present on one side of the road.
Board member Leitha Reilly asked if there was expressed interest in building the trail and was told by Hollis that there was not.
Rugg said Londonderry Trailways member Bob Saur had said the trail should remain, but if it was not to be built, a similar trail should be built elsewhere in town.
It was noted by Soares that the Conservation Commission said its original recommendation to have the trail built was still its view.
Nevins resident and board of directors member Jack O’Connell said he has lived at Nevins since 2006 and the elected board members on behalf of the residents wished to have the trail removed.
Abutter Susan Broad said at first she looked forward to having a place to walk that was a public trail. “I have very mixed feelings about this,” she said. “I moved in before Nevins was built and I have to tell you that I was looking forward to these walking trails, However, I just did a drive through and it is a beautiful community, but I don’t think whoever designed it ever planned on putting the walking trails in.”
She said the yards were not large and that there was no room for a trail.
Resident Phil Marineau, who has lived in the Nevins for about a year, said he was specifically told there would be no walking trail “because it had been voted on by the homeowners at the time.”
Board member Soares made a motion to have the trail removed. It was seconded by Freda and passed unanimously.