A developer wants to build 64 townhomes on an old horse farm in Litchfield, continuing a regionwide trend of converting rural properties to housing subdivisions.
Reginald Moreau, a Litchfield resident who has built similar developments elsewhere in New Hampshire, has a contract on the horse farm at 540 Charles Bancroft Highway. The nearly 40-acre parcel, which is owned by Darlene Deblois, is listed for $1.4 million.
“This is a plan that I have been looking to do here in town for quite some time,” Moreau told the planning board Tuesday. “We have a nice piece of land that has been zoned appropriately for this.”
The plan calls for 16 buildings, with four units per building. Each two-story unit would be about 1,500 square feet, with three bedrooms and a single-car garage, according to Eric Mitchell of Eric C. Mitchell and Associates Inc. of Bedford.
Moreau said the project will be similar to The Vineyards of Concord, a condominium complex he developed that is offering units for about $300,000.
Kim Queenan, planning board member and selectman, said the Litchfield Historical Society was disappointed at the prospect of losing the old home and barn that sit on the property, describing the house as a town fixture and possibly the oldest standing structure in Litchfield.
The Litchfield Historical Society believes the house was constructed in the early 1800s as one of the Kings Grant properties and was owned by the Corning family. Queenan said over the years there have been rumors of an underground railroad on the site, though the historical society is unsure.
“The house and the barn are landmarks, even if they are not historical,” said Kate Stevens, planning board member.
Mitchell said the developer is not looking to do anything with the existing house and barn and is willing to work with the town to move the structure to another location where it could be used by the community.
Suggestions have been made to relocate the building to the nearby Moore’s Falls conservation area and perhaps convert it into a visitor center.
Thomas Campagna of 3 Temple St. said he purchased his abutting property in 2011 because of the quiet, peaceful location.
“I struck gold when I found this home and I would like to keep it this way,” Campagna said. He strongly opposes the proposed development, which he said will be a “direct invasion.”
Brent Lemire, a former selectman who lives at 547 Charles Bancroft Highway, says he has enjoyed a beautiful view of the rural horse farm for the past 40 years.
“Anything you could do to lessen the impact on us, especially creating a buffer and moving the access road, we would certainly appreciate it,” he told planning officials.
“There could be some traffic issues,” said planning board member James Boffetti, planning board member, who noted that the Corning Road intersection already gets congested.
According to the plans presented to the board Tuesday, some of the units will be owner-occupied and others will be rentals.
Two concepts were shown to the board. Under one proposal, the majority of the units would be constructed along Route 3A. In the other plan, most of the units would be closer to the Merrimack River.
“We are trying to get some feedback on the two different concepts,” Mitchell said.
Planning board members stressed the importance of preserving the cultural charm of Litchfield in considering the project.
Meanwhile, Peter Ames of Moose Hollow Road pointed out the need for more housing options in Litchfield.
“I think this would be an asset to the town,” he said.