West Windsor tiny home development gets town approval

Valley News Correspondent
Published: 9/19/2022 9:29:00 PM
Modified: 9/19/2022 9:29:04 PM

BROWNSVILLE — The future of a vacant, tree-lined field next to the village post office remains in question following a town board’s approval last month of a housing development proposed for the site.

The West Windsor Development Review Board unanimously approved a site plan for the project that calls for building up to five short-term rental units in the 2.4-acre field sandwiched between Mill Brook and Route 44.

The 420-square-foot “tiny homes” would be used primarily by outdoor enthusiasts looking to stay in Brownsville, a village in West Windsor, the project’s developers say. The site would also feature two electric car charging stations.

Ascutney Lofts, a company formed earlier this year by West Windsor residents Mark Morse, a building contractor, and Yulia Moskvina, a nurse anesthetist, secured a “planned unit development” zoning permit from the town last month.

The project, however, must still pass muster with the regional board for Act 250, the state’s land use law.

“The town may approve a project, but the state could ultimately say no,” West Windsor Zoning Administrator Deb Shearer said.

“It’s out of our control at this point,” she added.

The tiny-house concept is still a relatively new development trend, which aims to minimize the impact on municipal and environmental resources, and modernize the use of renewable building materials and renewable energy. Most states haven’t defined them, so communities are left to their own devices to fit them into established boxes.

In West Windsor, the definition of the development was deliberate.

“It’s not a motel, it’s not a hotel, it’s not residential,” Shearer said. “It doesn’t fit completely into any single category.”

The proposed dwellings would likely cater to visitors at Ascutney Outdoors, a nonprofit that has rejuvenated the shuttered ski resort 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 the winter.

In recent years — largely through the work of Ascutney Outdoors volunteers — the town has started to attract visitors who participate in team trail races and biking events.

The village of Brownsville is also home to a Holiday Inn resort, which features indoor and outdoor swimming pools, tennis and a fitness center, at the base of Mount Ascutney.

The fate of the tiny homes proposal could rest with an environmental impact study that is part of the Act 250 permitting process. The survey could determine to what extent, the field might be developed, if at all.

In response to a request for comment on the status of the Act 250 permit application, Moskvina and Morse wrote on Monday, “We may know more in a week or two after getting more guidance from state official(s).”

L. A. Wetzel can be reached at LAWetzel@proton.me.

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