Residents expressed concerns Thursday night about the impact the Collins Ridge project, with over 1,000 homes, will have on the town of about 6,500 people.
The town held a public hearing on changes Caruso Homes wants to make in the 100-acre first phase of the project, which has 326 apartments, 152 townhomes, and 196 single-family homes.
The Hillsborough Town Board of Commissioners approved the master plan, annexation, zoning and water and sewer extension for Collins Ridge in a 3-2 vote last year.
Caruso Homes wants to make several changes in the approved plan, including:
▪ Starting construction via Orange Grove Street and making Daniel Boone Village a second access point
▪ Making private roads serving future townhomes public
▪ Slightly reducing parking, and adding alleys behind homes that would double the number of intersections
▪ Greatly increasing the amount of grading to the property
▪ Reducing a buffer on the western boundary (mainly Daniel Boone Village) from 40 feet to 20 feet
Caruso Homes has a contract to buy the Daniel Boone property in 2018 and plans to make it the subdivision’s main entrance.
“We will develop the two properties together,” said CEO Jeff Caruso. “Once we acquire the Daniel Boone Village, that buffer will go away.”
Mayor Pro Tem Kathleen Ferguson expressed concern that the new Phase I plan separates the project’s affordable and veterans housing from the rest the community.
“It was supposed to be inclusionary,” she said. “Not where you can drive down the street and point out the affordable housing and say yes, you are less affluent than the rest of us.”
Others wanted to see provisions for special needs within the homes.
“I am a member of the Vietnam War generation,” said Hillsborough resident Jack Bernhardt. “And, once again, there are a lot of veterans coming home with severe handicaps and missing limbs and they and the aging population will need the proper facilities and accommodations ... ramps, lever door handles, wide doorways etc.”
Board members and citizens also asked about the financial impact of adding public roads, the cookie-cutter look of same-size lots, traffic congestion, and the preservation of two historic roads that run through the property.
“I came down here from New York with my wife,” said new resident Lewis Munnier, “We just happened upon it and fell in love with Hillsbororough. We bought a home here.
“And all I can say is that this development will destroy Hillsborough. I was a fireman and have been in all five burroughs of New York and in Jersey and the streets here are too small to handle this type of growth, and I have seen what it does back home.”
Orange County Planning and Inspections Director Craig Benedict noted that several state transportation improvement projects for Hillsborough, including the widening of Churton Street, had fallen through.
When it came to making the townhome streets public, Town Manager Eric Peterson said, “One of my concerns is that if we make an exception here then the other townhome communities will want the same and that will raise taxes.”
The original fiscal study had just 100 dwellings needing public roads and service such as trash pick-up and street lights, Town Planner Margaret Hauth said. The new proposal is 424.
Caruso offered to pay part of the $235,000 cost of a new sanitation truck if the townhomes streets are public.
“Paying for a portion of the truck is one thing,” said Peterson. “But the streets will be part of the town forever.”
Talk of the negative impact the project will bring continued outside the meeting, and many left frustrated.
“All I get are worried calls and comments on Collins Ridge,” said Hillsborough Commissioner Evelyn Lloyd. “I have not had one person come to me and say its a good idea.
“It’s going to change the town,” she said. “We just have too many developments going on right now.”
The Planning Board will make a recommendation on the proposed changes to the Town Board of Commissioners, which could vote on them in March.