SOMERSET – Councilmembers from the Town of Somerset heard concerns from community members over water runoff and tree removal for the development of a new house in the neighborhood during their Sept. 1 town council meeting.
During the public discussion portion of the meeting, Carol Barsha and Miguel Tejblum voiced their concern about a large house that a developer is trying to build directly adjacent to their home. The two brought sketches of the proposed project for councilmembers to look over while they outlined their concern.
They noted worries over water runoff, loss of trees and the addition of a pool.
“As I understand it, (the developer) has already gone before Montgomery County to request a pool, but there are various people here that have several issues (with the project), and we’d like to bring them to the attention of the council,” said Tejblum.
Somerset Mayor Jeffrey Slavin noted as the two got started outlining their concerns that the council could not necessarily respond or ask questions, given that the developer of the proposed home was not in attendance.
“I don’t know what questions are appropriate if the applicant isn’t here,” Slavin said.
Slavin allowed the couple to talk about the project, however, to put the issue on the record.
“(The developer) just came by and gave us the plans of what they’re planning to do, and I think there are issues. I think that it would be unfair to the community if they got in front of you (to propose the project) without you having the time to digest the issues that the community is presenting,” Tejblum said.
He said that since the developer is asking for an expedited hearing to move forward with the renovation, it might be inappropriate to grant that request, given that the council has not heard from the community on the issue yet.
Tejblum went on to explain that the proposed house, which will replace an existing home, has a much larger footprint than the previous building. It would exceed the square footage allowed by the county.
The larger footprint also reduces the amount of space between the two homes, which would make placing utilities, like an air conditioning unit, difficult. Even if it was possible to install an air conditioning unit in the narrow space between both homes, it would become disruptive due to the noise, Teblum said.
Another issue Tejblum noted was the developer’s plans to remove trees, including two on his property, that would become unsteady when the developer puts in a new driveway.
“What makes this a bit unique on the tree side is that there are two trees that are smack on the property line; they’re two poplars they’re about 80 feet tall with huge canopies,” he said. “From even their arborist, they have determined that any construction could make the trees fall.”
Along with concerns about losing useful shade trees on their property, Tejblum and Barsha noted concern about water runoff. Changes to the neighborhood like creating a larger home will reduce the amount of green space, which can absorb rainwater during the wet season.
Barsha said that in years past, the flooding has become more frequent and severe.
Other members of the community in attendance also noted that their backyards have become more prone to flooding in recent years. They cited concern that new homeowners were not doing enough to reduce the amount of water runoff the neighborhood experiences.
“We need a new precedent (in town),” said Lucy Freedman, who attended the meeting. “It is the responsibility of the developer and new owner to prevent water from leaving the property.”
The council voted to consider the community’s concerns over the project but noted that since the county has already approved the plans for the new house, they recommended that the neighbors go to the county and appeal its decision.