Monday June 24, 2013

BRATTLEBORO -- One of the largest residential development projects in recent memory is inching closer toward a start date after the Development Review Board approved the plan for 31 homes off of Black Mountain Road in north Brattleboro.

The DRB approved the final plat layout for Black Mountain Estates, a senior independent living retirement community. Developer John Brunelle, who is developing the project with his wife Lori, expects to get his Act 250 permit soon and says ground work will begin in the coming weeks. He hopes to begin construction of the homes in September and the first tenants could move in before the end of the year.

He said he hopes to continue construction throughout the winter.

"It really feels like it is going to happen now," Brunelle said after the DRB approved the plan Monday. "People are living longer and they want to live independently in a place where they don't have to worry about maintenance. We really think this is the right project for Brattleboro."

The Brunelles originally hoped to fit 41 homes within the 33 acres they own on Buttonwood Drive, a steep private road off of Black Mountain Road. They first presented their plan to the DRB more than a year ago and since then the project has been scaled back, with the DRB requiring more green space and alternative emergency road access.

State storm water requirements also forced the Brunelles to site fewer structures on the steep plateau.

The Brunelles want to build the 31 individual two-bedroom residences centered around a circle in an area that includes a community center, benches and green spaces. The homes, which will all include a patio and carport, vary from 1,200 square feet to 1,430 square feet depending on the sizes of the rooms. All of the homes are being built for rental, with monthly rates starting at $1,850.

Brunelle praised the relationship he developed with the town throughout the planning, and said he felt throughout the year-long process that the town was supporting the development and helping him make sure it was the right fit for the area

"Everybody was helpful. We never felt like the town was working against this project," Brunelle said. "They could not have been more helpful and encouraging. It was a very positive process."

Brunelle said he has had contact with more than 100 people for the 31 homes, though he said no one was yet committed.

"We designed this to give people a sense of community, and there has been a lot of interest," he said. "People, as they age, don't want to live out in the woods alone, but at the same time they want independence and privacy. This is for anyone who wants to get away from the trouble of home ownership, while living independently in a home where they don't have to worry about maintenance."

DRB Chairman Tim Cuthbertson said the Brunelles worked with the DRB throughout the year-long application process.

He said the development fits in with the Town Plan.

"This is a great big project and it is typical to have the developer make changes between the original plan and final approval," Cuthbertson said. "It's going to be good for the town. They put a lot of time into the planning and it is going to be a nice development."

For more information go to www.blackmountainliving.com.

Howard Weiss-Tisman can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 279, or hwtisman@reformer.com. Follow Howard on Twitter @HowardReformer.