Valley News correspondent
Published: 09/19/2022 21:29:00
Modified: 09/19/2022 21:29:04
BROWNSVILLE — The future of a vacant, tree-lined field next to the village’s post office remains in question after a city council approved a housing development proposed for the site last month.
The West Windsor Development Review Board unanimously approved a site plan for the project, calling for the construction of up to five short-term rental units on the 6-acre field between Mill Brook and Route 44.
The 420-square-foot “tiny houses” would be used primarily by outdoor enthusiasts looking to stay in Brownsville, a West Windsor village, the project’s developers say. Two charging stations for electric cars are also to be built on the site.
Ascutney Lofts, a company founded earlier this year by West Windsor residents Mark Morse, a building contractor, and Yulia Moskvina, an anesthesiologist, received planning permission for the “proposed unit development” from the city last month.
However, the project has yet to clear the regional board for Act 250, the state’s land use statute.
“The city can approve a project, but the state could ultimately say no,” said Deb Shearer, West Windsor’s zoning administrator.
“It’s out of our control at this point,” she added.
The tiny house concept is a relatively new development trend aimed at minimizing the impact on community and ecological resources and modernizing the use of renewable building materials and energy. Most states have not defined them, leaving communities to fit them into established boxes.
In West Windsor the definition of development was deliberate.
“It’s not a motel, it’s not a hotel, it’s not a gated community,” Shearer said. “It doesn’t entirely fit into a single category.”
The proposed apartments would likely cater to visitors to Ascutney Outdoors, a non-profit organization that has been rejuvenating the gated ski area in the small town. Ascutney Outdoors has developed a network of trails for biking, hiking and walking. The outdoor center also offers skiing and snowshoeing in winter.
In recent years – largely through the work of Ascutney Outdoors volunteers – the town has begun to attract visitors who take part in team trail races and cycling events.
The village of Brownsville is also home to a Holiday Inn Resort at the base of Mount Ascutney, which features indoor and outdoor pools, tennis and a fitness center.
The fate of the Tiny Homes proposal could depend on an environmental impact study forming part of the Act 250 permitting process. The survey could determine to what extent, if at all, the field could be developed.
In response to a request for comment on the status of the Act 250 permit application, Moskvina and Morse wrote Monday: “We may know more in a week or two after receiving more guidance from state officials.”
LA Wetzel can be reached at [email protected]