By HARRIETTE BRAINARD
BRANDON — Brandon officials recently approved a preliminary application from Robert N. Hockaday Jr. of Roland Enterprises for a new development of 70 single-family homes called “The Woods at Spring Pond.”
Hockaday, who is based in Baltimore, Md., was granted approval for his firm’s preliminary application in the middle of July by the town’s development review board. The preliminary application requires approval from local services — including police, fire and rescue departments, water and sewer, and the local school system — to ensure that the town’s infrastructure can accommodate the needs of the development.
“When you’re awarded approval at this juncture, it means that the town has awarded you approval in principle,” says local realtor Skip Davis, whose office has listed the property for sale. The developer will now have to submit more detailed engineering drawings for the final permitting process.
The area consists of 65.1 acres south of the Forest Brook Development and west of North Road (Route 53). On the western edge of the property lies Spring Pond, a shallow pond of approximately 5.5 acres. The rest of the property consists of second growth mixed timber. The soil is well suited for development as it is made up of gravel rather than clay, Davis said.
The project is what is called a gap development, Davis said, noting that the land lies undeveloped in the midst of properties that already have houses on them. Spring Pond lies just south of the Forest Brook development, is west of houses along North Road, and to the south larger parcels of property are either farmland or have single homes on them.
Hockaday plans to build the residents in clusters, incorporating conservation buffers between each group of houses.
The 65-acre parcel will not be entirely divided into individual lots; a percentage of the land will be communal living space with walking paths and a picnic pavilion. There will be a conservation buffer of at least 100 feet between the houses and the pond.
Spring Pond will remain a communal space, not suitable for recreation but open to wildlife such as geese and ducks. According to information provided by Hockaday, the buffers will provide natural areas where the firm is proposing “walking paths as well as a picnic pavilion adjacent to Spring Pond. It is our intention to develop this property in an environmentally responsible way.”
The land is contoured so housing clusters will be built on terraced land with elevations above one another — the highest elevation closest to North Road and the pond at the lowest elevation. The lot size will range from 1/3 acre to one acre. Municipal sewer and water will serve the proposed residential development with underground utility hookups.
One of the outcomes of the proposed development would be an updated municipal water line along North Road, which would allow the Forest Brook development to gain access to town water for residences and also for fire hydrants — a significant benefit for residents in the area, Davis said.
The project germinated about a year ago. Hockaday made an initial assessment that the land was “ideally suited” for the project, then hired Otter Creek Engineering of East Middlebury to accompany them to the state environmental office in Rutland, which oversees the Act 250 Commission, to ensure they could develop the land “with very little environmental impact,” Davis said.
Davis, at the request of Hockaday, then went door to door to area residents explaining what they were proposing for the land and to address any of their concerns. The plan was slightly reconfigured to accommodate most of those concerns, Davis said. A state biologist was also brought on to address any water issues, and the plan was again adjusted accordingly.
Hockaday wanted to be sure that “the land would be developed correctly with the lowest environmental impact,” Davis said. “He has seen the problems that could develop without taking the proper precautions and directions ahead of time.”
Archaeological studies were also done and a number of artifacts were discovered, so Hockaday reconfigured plans again with the state’s input to leave the areas where the artifacts were found “undisturbed.”
The project is now entering the final period of the permitting process, Davis says, adding that the year-long process “has been very professional; everyone involved has been reasonable and helpful in working toward resolution of the various issues.”
The type of housing within the development will conform to a set of architectural standards set by Hockaday, with a primary consideration being energy efficiency.
“Homeowner rules and regulations, including architectural standards, will ensure that homes are attractive, well constructed, energy efficient, and well maintained,” Davis said.
“People who buy land in this area will be able to choose their own builder for their house as long as they abide by the architectural standards,” Davis said, adding “this way no one builds anything that is out of place or offends another homeowner.”
The developer is currently finishing up paperwork to prepare for the Act 250 application and the town’s application, Davis said, noting that much of the preparation work was done by Brandon-based Naylor and Breen, Otter Creek Engineering and attorney James Leary.