YARMOUTH – The Planning Board forged ahead Wednesday night and approved the town’s largest residential development in 20 years despite widespread concerns among neighbors.

The board satisfied some neighbors by requiring the developer of McKearney Village to allow only recreational and emergency access to Sycamore Drive, a dead-end lane in the established Applewood Farm neighborhood off West Main Street.

The board voted 6-1 in favor of the 39-lot development off Hillside Street proposed by Mike Albert of Pownal. All but one of the lots would be for single-family homes; the 39th lot could be developed into a 32-unit multifamily complex.

Several residents spoke against the 53-acre development, repeating concerns about the density of the project, the lack of a traffic impact study and the way town officials reviewed the proposal.

Over the course of several public meetings, Suzanne Jones told the board, abutters weren’t properly notified, environmental issues were given short shrift, public comment was restricted and Planning Board Chairman Stacy Stevens had a private conversation with the developer after one meeting.

“This whole process has been flawed,” Jones said. “Take the time you need to make this right.”

Stevens, who voted for the development, declined to comment on Jones’ charge following Wednesday’s meeting.

He said during the meeting that residents had four opportunities to speak publicly on the development and many had submitted detailed comments in writing.

Ben Mather, the only board member to vote against the development, said he had lingering concerns about the density and potential environmental impacts of the project.

The board gave preliminary approval in March despite strong opposition from residents of several nearby neighborhoods, including those near Harrison Middle School and Yarmouth High School.

The development initially called for full motor vehicle access between McKearney Village and Applewood Farm, in keeping with the town’s new comprehensive plan.

The plan requires “the interconnection of streets in residential developments where feasible to create a network of streets” and avoid “forcing all traffic onto a small number of arterial and collector streets.”

Several municipal officials, including the town planner, the fire chief, the police chief and the town engineer, had pushed for full motor vehicle access to Applewood Farm for public safety and community development benefits.

As approved, the access road between McKearney Village and Sycamore Drive will have a sliding electronic gate that public works employees and rescue workers will be able to operate with a remote control.

Applewood Farm residents worried that connecting to the new development would invite cut-through traffic to West Main Street and worsen a speeding problem in their neighborhood.

In addition, residents of Ledgewood, Oakwood and other streets were concerned that McKearney Village would increase drivers’ tendency to cut through Harrison Middle School, Yarmouth Elementary School and Yarmouth High School to get to or avoid heavily traveled West Elm Street, Main Street and Portland Street.

The board voted unanimously Wednesday night to recommend that the Town Council call for the immediate closure of the rear access driveway to the middle school.

Staff Writer Kelley Bouchard can be contacted at 791-6328 or at:

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