Planning Board Approves Two-House “Athena Lane” Subdivision

Marked with No Trespassing signs and caution tape, this Hartwell Road property will become the "Athena Way" subdivision
This Hartwell Road property will become the “Athena Lane” subdivision

By Kim Siebert MacPhail

A well-attended public hearing took place on May 14 to address an application by “Homes by Anna, LLC” for a two-house subdivision and private way called Athena Lane off Hartwell Road. Planning Board members reacted favorably to specifications of the plan, calling developer Anna Wallace’s intent to spare mature trees on the parcel “thoughtful.” Pam Brown, the attorney representing Wallace in this matter, requested that the Planning Board approve the subdivision and waive some of the usual road construction standards— such as street lighting requirements— for the driveway-scale private road.

Two structures, described as “a two- or three-family home” and “a rooming house for six tenants,”are currently on the 1.46 acre property.  Both buildings are now empty and would be demolished; two, single-family, two-story homes would be built instead. Additionally, the current driveway would be moved further to the eastern edge of the parcel and become Athena Lane, essentially a shared driveway for the two homes on the site.

Which trees to retain and which to remove occupied much of the discussion, with questions and requests coming largely from the neighborhood residents in attendance.

The stand of immense Norway spruce trees on the property
The property’s stand of immense Norway spruces

Attorney Brown began the presentation, quickly focusing on the trees currently on the site.  “If you’ve been by, you’ll notice there are some fairly majestic stands of Norway spruce. There are two rows there now. There was actually a third, I’m told, but the trees have come down sometime in the last decade. Some fell down and then there were concerns with the ability of them to stand and be safe and not be falling and be damaging property.”

Due to the location and condition of these spruces, Brown said the developer wants the majority of them to be removed. “But, we’ve made an effort to make sure we’re preserving significant trees—not just shrubs—around the perimeter, just about everywhere we can,” Brown explained. In addition, street trees would be planted along the newly constructed Athena Way.

Mike Leskouski, an abutter living on the opposite side of Hartwell Road, urged the Board to agree to Wallace’s plan to remove the spruces, citing a previous incident during which his house was damaged when a spruce tree fell across the road.

Planning Board Chair Jeff Cohen agreed that the spruces should come down if they presented a hazard. Planning Director Glenn Garber noted that there are other viable specimens on the property that should be preserved.

With the plan for the removal of trees and other scrub came privacy concerns from Independence Road neighbors, specifically because the new homes’ orientations face them into the abutters’ back yards.

Brown said that Wallace is happy to work with the neighbors about issues such as privacy, vegetation and lighting and collected names and contact information to keep them “in the loop as things progress.”

With the clarification that Athena Way would be plowed, paved and maintained entirely by the two Athena Way home owners, the Planning Board unanimously approved the subdivision request.

Demolition of the current buildings and construction of the new homes is anticipated to begin this summer.

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