Traffic: The proposed development is off Laurel Drive, a narrow, wooded street off Hockanum Road (Route 47). 47 is also narrow, and already overwhelmed with car and truck traffic. The increased traffic will be a significant burden on residents of Laurel Drive, Chmura Road, and Hockanum Road, andwill drastically change the character of the neighborhood. It will also inevitably add to already-crowded conditions on Route 9, nearby bypasses such as Rocky Hill Road, and the Coolidge Bridge, and begin to create congestion on Bay Road, East Hadley Road, and Maple Street. It is important to note that other new development, such as the Wal-Mart opening in January, will substantially increase the pressures on these roads even before this latest project.
Density and Neigborhood Character: The proposed development is in a sparsely populated rural area, characterized largely by farms and state preservation land. Existing houses are primarily small to moderate sized single-family homes. The impact of an extra 40-60 homes will forever change the neighborhood character. As the new construction inflates property values, there is a real danger that these modest homes may face rapid and large tax increases, making them unaffordable to current residents, and unattractive to new buyers. And as open space is chewed up for new development, Hadley will lose its rural character--and its precious farmland. Also, Hadley has seen little development of affordable housing in recent years. Other than the senior citizen housing off the bikeway, almost all new construction throughout the town has been large-scale upper-income housing. This new development drastically increases that trend, and makes it harder for Hadley natives with modest incomes to be able to stay in the town they were born in. Additionally, with a 10-year timeline, the impact on the neighborhood of ongoing construction noise, heavy equipment, related traffic, and other construction-related problems will continue for a full decade.
The Real Estate Market: Mr. Bercume, the developer of the new project, has been trying to sell an existing luxury home on Hockanum Road, around the corner from the proposed development, for over a year. If he cannot sell a single house, his ability to sell a minimum of 40 is called into question.
Town Services: Water pressure may be an issue for Hockanum Village, located just south of the proposed development. It is also likely to be an issue in the steep, rocky terrain of the new development. The town may have to spend large sums of money to improve the water infrastructure. There may also be an increased burden on police services, as the concentration of so much luxury housing and its visibility from a public area (Mount Holyoke summit) may create a target for thieves (this is not idle speculation; there have been several home and vehicle break-ins reported on Old Mountain Road, on the south face of Mount Holyoke). And, since not many Hadley residents can afford a house of this kind, the influx of new residents may lead to increased class sizes in local schools. And given the difficult terrain of the proposed development, it is hard to imagine that it will be easy to create a road that can be safely traveled by fire and other emergency vehicles. If such a road is created, it will likely result in substantial habitat destruction.
Tourism, Environmental Impact, and Land Preservation: This development will surely be visible from the slopes and summit of Mount Holyoke and from many other points in Skinner and Mt. Holyoke Range State Parks, and from all scenic views facing the north slope. The elimination of some of the beautiful open vistas may have an impact on tourism. It will certainly have an impact on the preservation of open space, which is a stated goal of all regional planning bodies. The surrounding area is an important wildlife habitat, and home to some endangered species, including bald eagles. Contiguous habitat is a vital part of the mix. Many trees will have to be cut for this project. The mountain springs and streams recharge the aquifer and empty into the Connecticut River; they must be protected from runoff both during construction and once the houses are built. Concerns about pesticide contamination, for example, must be addressed. Dinosaur tracks and Indian arrowheads have been found in the area, and this project may have an impact on archeological and paleontological research.