Final Canal Walk Development Project Gets Planning Board Approval

2-3-16 Meeting Canal Walk - 3

Thomas Decker, an engineer with Van Cleef And Associates, tells the Planning Board about plans for a new gatehouse for Canal Walk.

The developer of the Canal Walk active adult community on Feb. 3 won approval for the final phase of the housing project.

The Planning Board, with one dissenting vote, approved a change in the project’s General Development Plan and also gave preliminary site plan approval for the construction of Enclave II, a 3-building, 62-unit condominium/apartment development near the project’s Schoolhouse Road entrance.

The General Development Plan needed to be amended because the original approval called for an assisted living center to be built where Enclave II is now planned, and for a retail center to be built across Canal Walk Boulevard where the developer in December received Planning Board approval for a 63-unit, single family home development.

Planing Board members also approved of the developer’s plan to move the community’s gatehouse, which monitors access to the 300-acre development. The gatehouse had to be moved closer to Schoolhouse Road to accommodate the two new projects.

Thomas Decker, the project’s engineer, told the board that the new gatehouse will be larger than the current one and will house an office, a bathroom and a mechanical room.

Although a number of Canal Walk residents asked for it, the Planning Board did not mandate that the developer provide a third entrance. Canal Walk’s traffic engineer, Gary Dean, told the board that his studies of traffic at the main entrance did not show any need for a third entrance.

There was also some discussion sparked by audience comments about the two new gates that will be placed near the development’s Schoolhouse Road entrance. Dean told the board that the gates – one for residents and one for guests – will be program so that only one opens at a time.

After some questions from the audience, the developer also agreed to move one of the gates so the a driver who was refused entry to the development could not gain entry by pretending to turn around.

Dean said there would be “no meaningful benefit” to having a third entrance/exit for residents.

Dean said that after studying traffic volume of the Canal Walk Boulevard/Schoolhouse Road entrance, he “cannot identify a compelling traffic engineering reason” to provide the entrance.

“When I look at the volume and the characteristics of that volume, I say Canal Walk is working very well,” he said.

There was some talk about converting a temporary construction entrance into a resident-only entrance, but Peter Lanfrit, the developer’s attorney, said that people who bought homes to be built along that road were told it would be closed off into a cul-de-sac, and that the developer couldn’t change that.

Board vice chairperson Cecile MacIvor pointed out that current residents were told they would be getting a retail center and an assisted living facility, but the developer changed that.

Noting the the plans for Enclave II call for an emergency road running behind the buildings from Schoolhouse Road, MacIvor asked, “Since you have the third entrance, what’s the problem with making that a residents’ only entrance and exit?”

“To what benefit?” Dean replied.

“To make the residents happy,” she said.

But chairman Michael Orsini sided with Dean.

“There has to be a more practical reason than to make the residents happy,” he said, adding that there has to be some planing rationale behind the move.

Dean said changing the use of that emergency road would “introduce conflicts” with people pulling into and out of parking spaces for the three buildings, as well as with pedestrians.

“It wasn’t designed for that,” he said.

Although Jim Little, president of the Canal Walk Homeowners Association, said that his group and a second HOA serving the community support the developer’s plans, several residents said the HOA does not speak for them.

One of them was John Horan, who advocated for a residents’-only entrance and exit.

“I think the builder is being shown more consideration than we are,” he said.

After the more than two-hour session, all board members but MacIvor voted to approve the GDP change and to approve the preliminary site plan.


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