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Fire chief: Ward Hill Subdivision’s access road doesn’t make the grade

— The ongoing site plan review for the proposed Ward Hill Subdivision took an odd twist at the March 26 Johnsburg Planning Board meeting when the fire chief for the nearest volunteer company informed the board and the applicant that a proposed access road into the subdivision doesn’t make the grade.

Bakers Mills-Sodom Fire Chief Lewis Hitchcock said his company would not respond to the subdivision if the grade of the access road exceeded 8 percent and the width of the road wasn’t at least 22 feet, regardless of what the town code said.

“Twenty foot is too narrow,” Hitchcock said. “I won’t put fire protection in there.”

The town code requires roads to limit grades to 12 percent and requires roads to be at least 20 feet wide. Project engineer James Easton said that he was designing the project to meet the requirements set forth in the town code, specifically, no more than a 12 percent grade for the access road and a width of 20 feet.

“I’m designing to town code,” Easton said. “Town code says 12 percent.”

After some back and forth between Hitchcock, the board and the engineer, Hitchcock grew more animated and prepared to leave the meeting, but not before restating his position.

“It’s in our minutes,” Hitchcock said. “The town says we don’t have to go anywhere unsafe. And over 8 percent is unsafe. I’m not going to argue with you. That’s how it is. Deal with it.”

With that, Hitchcock stormed out of the meeting.

For their part, board members appeared unfazed by Hitchcock and his position regarding fire coverage for the proposed subdivision.

“We’ve had an issue with this fire company on one other project,” Planning Board Chair Dottie Osterhout said. “We’ll work with other fire companies. There’s mutual aid.”

Residents of neighboring Iroquois Trail and Chatiemac Road attending the meeting expressed concern about allowing a project to progress without a clear plan for fire protection.

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