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Mountain Road 55-Plus Condo Project Meets Opposition

Neighbors of Mountain Road could have held a small block party with the group that showed up at the Select Board meeting to oppose an age-restricted condo project on their street.

Dubbed Winn View Heights II LLC, the project slated for behind 35 Mountain Road, is advertised as a 55-plus, 24-unit housing project, with six of the units designated as affordable.

Each of the units would feature two bedrooms and two bathrooms.

While naysayers agreed that housing is needed for the senior community in Burlington, they all believed shoehorning it into an already dense area did not make sense.

“I have a big problem with this project because I think it’s up in a residential area, the access was originally designed and supported by you as a board off of Richardson Road, which the access to the site was a lot of cleaner, a lot more direct,” said resident Don Casey of 14 Mountain Road.

Originally, the project was designed to enter from Winn Street to Harriet Avenue to Richardson Road, but was deemed too narrow by surveyors and engineers.

Casey acknowledged that the original access plan would have been problematic for the two streets. However, he said the new plan includes creating an easement road behind 35 Mountain, which will likely require blasting near many homes.

“That site is an albatross,” he said.

Attorney Thomas F. Murphy Jr. of Shea, Murphy & Gulde PC, representing the project, unveiled a revised plan that showed traffic now entering through Mountain Road and snaking its way up to the top, which troubled residents.

Steve O’Brien of 29 Mountain Road, who has lived at his home for 60 years, said the name of the street came about because there is a ledge. “That ledge is in my backyard,” he said. He added that because of his living situation, the prospect of “blasting” in the area makes him nervous.

Shari Ellis, chair of the Zoning Bylaw Review Committee, says this area is not the right one for this type of project, especially if seniors have to contend with icy, hilly roads.

Eileen Sickler, vice chair of the Housing Partnership, says the partnership has not had a chance to address the project because they just received the email “sort of blindly a week or two ago.”

She added that it would be good for everyone to get facts before making an opinion, including the Select Board to understand what it’s supporting.

Priest pointed out that the board is following the new processes set by Town Meeting.

“Everyone was notified, we’re holding a public meeting, and we’re going to wait a whole month, essentially, and then we’re going to rediscuss and vote,” he said. “So compared to what was before this is now insanely more transparent than we’ve ever been. So if folks haven’t had a chance to digest this information, I don’t know what to tell you.”

And while the Select Board’s role is “finite” in this process, Priest says he understands the board’s support or lack of it carries weight. But that the bulk of the process and details will be going through the Zoning Board of Appeals, and that has not even begun, he said.

Ellis asked that the public hearing continue to the next meeting so other voices can be heard. She said this is not the same project the Select Board approved three years ago with the access road being completely changed.

In 2019, the Select Board voted in favor of the original plan in the name of more affordable senior housing in the area.

Attorney Murphy also cited a Housing Authority report calling for more ways residents can age in place in town. Murphy added empty nesters who don’t feel like landscaping or maintaining a single-family home don’t have a lot of choice in town.

“And I would suggest this directly meets this need,” Murphy said.

But with the access road change, and a new bylaw on the books, Murphy said he attended the meeting to make sure the project still has the board’s support.

The public hearing will continue at the Jan. 9 Select Board meeting and then a vote will be taken.