MADISON — You might have noticed signs displaying red dynamite sticks that have popped up in front of the row of gracious homes across the street from the library on Route 1.
The signage in the front yards of some of the town’s premier real estate in the #800 block of Boston Post Road shows opposition to the proposed cluster housing development at 856 Boston Post Road, also known as The Ledges.
The proposal is to create 7 units on the site, which is less than 2 acres. Site work would include blasting as The Ledges is built upon ledge.
The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on the plan 7 p.m., Thursday, March 18 via zoom at but.Lt/30JorHT.
The property owner is Faith Whitehead and the applicant for The Ledges of Madison is 856 Boston Post Road LLC. Whitehead declined to comment.
The proposal will then go before the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency. This group must make a decision on the plan before the Planning and Zoning can make their decision.
Most of the homes in the row of seven homes, bookended by The Scranton Seahorse Inn, a Greek revival home built in 1833, and a 1904 Shaker style home, are decked out in banners and lawn signs with the message “Wrong Project for the Site! Say “NO” To THE LEDGES/856 BPR Plan.”
The image of dynamite on the signs is a reference to the considerable amount of ledge that is on the property.
Laura Downes, whose home abuts 856 Boston Road to the south, understands there will be “extensive blasting.”
“They have already told us that there’s blasting throughout the project,” she said.
“It’s called The Ledges for a reason and we live on Quarry Ledge,” she added. “It’s scary to think of the blasting.”
Blasting was discussed extensively at the March 1 meeting of the Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency. Geologist and explosives engineer Richard Hosley, Jr. presented a geologic history of the property, according to the meeting notes.
“If the explosion is designed correctly, only the rock that needs to be broken can be broken,” according to Hosley, who showed photographic examples of line drilling done to preserve adjacent structures,” the meeting minutes said. At that meeting Hosley was noted that state and federal regulations “govern the use of explosives on site; there is a lot of public involvement, notification of the work to take place, conversations with property owners to determine how structures were built, and blasting always starts furthest away from a point of concern.”
The plan for the 1.81 acres includes knocking down the carriage house currently on the property; construction of three new homes, of which two will be duplexes; renovation of the main house into two residences and the construction of a driveway, parking area and sidewalk, wastewater system, storm drainage and landscape improvements. according to the Coastal Site Plan application filed on Feb. 19.
Each individual home in the newly constructed buildings will not exceed 2,250 square feet. There is an exception for the size of the two units in the main house, once divided.
Plans include maintaining and preserving the main house, The Ledges, built in 1903, as well as the existing stone walls. This home is not visible from Route 1.
One home, called the Gatehouse, will be built at the foot of The Ledges, right on Boston Post Road. That residence, along with the two residences in the existing house, will have a two-car garage. The duplexes will each have a bay with a two-car garage.
While Town Planner Dave Anderson said he supports the project in theory, “the specific detail of the proposal obviously need to be carefully considered.”
“The general concept of trying to find opportunities for new housing in proximity to the downtown is something that the Planning and Zoning Commission supports,” he said.
Downes’ house is tucked behind The Ledges, with lots of privacy. She is opposed to this development.
“It’s really special back here,” she said. “We’ve got all kinds of wildlife. In fact, the day we saw that proposal we took a picture of a bobcat in the yard.
“We get the deer,” she added. “We get the coyotes. We get the bobcats, the foxes, the snowy owls.
“It’s beautiful back here and it’s very quiet,” she added.
Downes is fearful that a cluster development would “completely ruin” the tranquility she and her family currently enjoy on their property.
“The light, the noise, the traffic,” she said. “The visual — they’re going to cut all the trees.”
While the neighbors are being the most outspoken, Anderson said development, like this, in town should be of interest to all residents.
“There’s probably some folks that feel that it’s a positive project because it is increasing our housing opportunities in the proximity to the downtown,” he said. “So, I think it should of interest to everybody.”
Robin Phillips, neighbor, believes this development will irrevocably change the charm of the neighborhood.
“It is going to change the character,” he said. “We walk down that lane into town, all the walkers go by there and it’s the whole entrance into town. It’s part of the character of the town.”
“I’m worried about us, but I’m worried about the town,” she said. “The town is telling you that the investment you make in your single-family home doesn’t matter.”
Regarding the banners and lawn signs that have popped up, Anderson said he is “saddened in some ways by the way the way that opponents of this application have chosen to voice those concerns. I think we provide a really good mechanism for them to do so without these giant banners being posted.”