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Berkshire East to explore cluster housing in Hawley

  • Berkshire East. The owners of the resort have begun talking to Hawley officials about building homes on 76 acres. Recorder Staff



For the Gazette
Monday, January 08, 2018

HAWLEY — Some of Vermont’s most popular ski resorts have condominium-style dwellings close to the slopes; could the Berkshire East Mountain Resort follow suit?

This week, resort co-owner/Manager Jonathan Schaefer explored that option with the Planning Board for a 76-acre property, with frontage off East Road, owned by Berkshire East in Hawley.

The proposal calls for two cul-de-sac developments of timber-framed, two-floor homes, leaving at least half of the acreage as open space, under conservation restrictions.

Schaefer, his lawyer, William E. Martin and S-K Design Group engineer James M. Scalise said the land had been previously approved for 25 house lots in the 1970s. They would like to build between 25 to 30 small homes on the property.

Although these would be separate houses, the land they sit on would remain a single jointly owned parcel, that is managed by a homeowners commission or association.

Those who buy one of the two-bedroom dwellings would have enough parking space for two vehicles and “exclusive use” of some land close to the house. All 25 to 30 homes would share one septic system and a few narrow roadways.

To accommodate storage for canoes, bicycles and ski equipment, the development may include a community center that would provide storage space, as well as a ski-lodge setting for socializing.

“The whole thing is designed to be a complement to the ski area,” said Scalise. “It’s a new type of development in the Berkshires.”

“People who love Berkshire East don’t want Berkshire East to turn into Mount Snow or Okemo,” said Martin, referring to ski resorts in Vermont. “They want unique little cabins that you can put some character into.”

“The most negative comment I got is: “They’re all cookie-cutter,” said Scalise, referring to criticism of other ski resort area’s dwellings. “Timber-frame cabins is what the dream is.”

Jon Schaefer said the ski resort has notified some of its long-standing customers of the idea of putting houses up near the resort, and got a “fairly robust sign-up” of interested people.

“What we miss is a community feeling,” Schaefer said of the resort. “We love to ski, but we’re spread out. Does Hawley want this?”

“We do, but we need to work some stuff out,” said Lloyd Crawford, a Planning Board member who owns a cross-country ski resort in Hawley.

Planning Board Chairman Henry Eggert said the proposal would require a waiver if the developer is to build more than 25 dwellings there.

Board member Paul Norcross expressed concerns over whether the “narrow roads” will be wide enough to accommodate fire trucks and emergency vehicles. He also wanted more information on how an influx of people in the new homes would affect Hawley’s emergency services, which now serve about 337 people.

Planner Charles Cutler pointed out if the dwellings add 70 people per weekend to the town, that’s almost one-third of the town’s residents that may need services.

Scalise said that the town would be getting more tax dollars for these new homes, but would probably not add more schoolchildren, since the small homes would mostly be seasonal, or used on weekends.

“But if we have to buy another fire truck, it’s a large cost for a tiny little town like Hawley,” Norcross said. “It’s a complex issue for us. ... We’re throwing out issues and trying to work this out. But I think the sentiment has been largely positive.”

The Schaefers haven’t yet submitted an application for building permits, and Jon Schaefer said the hope is to do the project over the next two to three years.

When asked how much each unit would sell for, Martin said: “We want to sell them at a price that weekend skiers can afford, but not for someone looking for the cheapest place to live.” He said that any rental agreements for use of the houses would have to go through management at the Warfield House, which is owned by Berkshire East.

Before applying for a building permit, the developers said they would like to hold a meeting with property abutters to see what concerns they may have. Scalise said he plans to revise his design over the next four to six weeks, to include more information on storm water drainage, the size of the housing units, traffic impact and road width within the development.