Chester Golf, now at 237 houses, moves toward public review

| 22 Feb 2012 | 01:54

    Development will lose misleading ‘golf’ tag, By Edie Johnson Chester — Chester Golf, one of the biggest housing projects on the fast track locally, is nearly ready to go before the public. The Town of Chester planning board has already approved the project’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement as being complete enough for public review. To accommodate the large turn-out expected, the public hearing will be held at the Chester Academy auditorium at 64 Hambletonian Avenue. It is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 17. The public will hear about two design alternatives. In the first, preferred by the planning board, the entire development will be a cluster design of 237 residential units. The board says this design gives the most flexibility in placing homes for the best environmental result. The second alternative includes only some portions in a cluster, with the remainder in a conventional plan in accordance with rural-residential zoning. The developer first brought Chester Golf to the planning board in 2000. At that time it was to include 384 units in a Planned Adult Community — the zoning term for senior citizen housing. It was to include golf and equestrian facilities open to the wider community through memberships, and to provide vast areas of open space. That design was rejected because Planned Adult Communities must, by law, have direct access to a state or county road, and by recommendation should be close to shops and services. The development was shelved while the town re-evaluated the way it approved cluster designs, and has just emerged from a complicated legal settlement. The conditions of the agreement require the town to approve a cluster arrangement, but with significant fewer units. The county, in its review of the current design, said projects of such high-density are not usually recommended for rural areas. The town’s engineer and planner have asked the developer to provide more information and to make some changes before the project goes before the public. First, all references to “golf” must be removed because the original country club concept offering golf and horseback riding is long gone. Second, it must be verified whether a portion of the property has historical significance and even artifacts. Third, wetlands, which are extensive throughout the site, must be more precisely delineated. They are also asking for more information on how water towers and houses, especially those near ridgelines, will affect scenic views; about the planned water connection with Walton Lake; and a proposed on-site sewer system. Over the past few months the planning board has moved houses away from utility easements and areas around Seeley Brook that are prone to flooding. An extensive trail system, with mulched paths eight feet wide, will connect to Goosepond Mountain State Park at the one end and Camp Monroe at the other end. Camp Monroe, which is on track to be developed, may ultimately connect to the Appalachian Trail. A 200-foot buffer will protect the entrance where Bull Mill Road meets Route 17M. Secondary access roads have been proposed for safety. The project will be built in phases. The Draft Environmental Impact Statement will be posted at the Town of Chester Web site,