SHT’s Undermountain housing proposal meets mixed response

SALISBURY — The Planning and Zoning Commission continued the public hearing on the Salisbury Housing Trust’s application to build two homes on a town-owned lot on Undermountain Road after a lengthy second session of the hearing Monday, June 17.

The hearing will recommence Monday, July 1, at 6:45 p.m. online.

In the first session of the hearing June 3, two design options were presented. But at the June 17 hearing, both designs were scrapped and the SHT proposed building two houses on the middle “piece” of the parcel, with the front piece, now used for parking, and the rear piece remaining as open space. Under this proposal, the town would retain control of the front and rear pieces.

This idea was met with mixed reception from the commissioners. Chair Michael Klemens wondered aloud if such an arrangement would survive a legal challenge and expressed concern about the large old oak trees on the property.

Commissioner Allen Cockerline didn’t think much of the open space in the rear, saying it’s too small to be of much use, and suggested the SHT build one house, not two.

Cockerline said trying to get three uses — parking, housing and a park — out of such a small area was “asking too much.”

Commissioner Bob Riva supported two houses but said after visiting the site, he has reluctantly concluded that the informal parking area in the front of the parcel should be eliminated.

Vice Chair Cathy Shyer was also in favor of getting rid of the parking lot, saying that parking in the village is a bigger topic that needs to be addressed separately.

Public comment was similarly mixed, with those opposed restating their objections to the effect of the housing on the neighborhood, while those in favor said that Salisbury’s need for affordable housing is “critical” or “desperate.”

Klemens said that rather than work out a complicated arrangement with the town and the SHT co-owning different pieces of the parcel, he would rather have the Trust take over the entire parcel, including the responsibility for the health of the oak trees.

SHT President John Harney was agreeable to this suggestion.

A motion was made to continue the hearing for the purpose of determining “the degree of land ownership” on the parcel. This will require a response from the Board of Selectmen, who also meet Monday, July 1, at 5 p.m.

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