(Post will also appear in the July 31st edition of the Bristol Observer – http://www.bristolobserver.com)
I have been fairly vocal in my opinions about how much I love old architecture; reusing our resources and being kind to the places we live. When a contact of mine emailed me to let me know there was a new subdivision being built in Burlington that might be worth an interview, I was hesitant. That is, until I heard that it was specifically being planned to incorporate and preserve the wetlands area in which it’s being built. That caught my attention. We have to face that construction will continue as long as humans exist. There have to be responsible ways to do this without hurting the land we build on.
Michael, Christine and Jerry Bryant joined me in a luxurious model home on top of a hill on a beautiful day last month to explain what their business and project were all about. It was located right next door to the home being built that they themselves will live in with their baby daughter starting this fall.
“We started BryCorp back in 1984,” Jerry shared. (He is Michael’s father and Christine’s father-in-law.) “My brother Bill and I started off as excavation contractors and gradually got into building homes and building roads. Six years ago or so, Bill and I started phasing ourselves out and Michael took over the company. Mike took over and ran with it. That’s where we stand today.”
Christine is a licensed realtor who co-lists the homes with Summerfield Realty and handles the marketing for BryCorp. She works closely with buyers to customize their homes exactly how they want, from flooring to fixtures, paint and wall trim.
Michael handles the day-to-day building that needs oversight and manages the excavation.
The company does excavation themselves and hires in subcontractors for home building, framing, sheet rocking and similar work. Jerry is primarily a consultant to the company now.
“I go out to wetlands meetings and that sort of thing,” Jerry said. “Commission members know me for having done business going back 30 years. They’ve seen me multiple times and there’s a certain level of trust that I’ve developed.”
Clearwater Creek, the conservation project that introduced me to the company, and is approximately 75 acres with 35 lots for homes.
“We knew we wanted to go the route of a conservation subdivision,” Michael said. “The property abuts the Nepaug Reservoir Property. Initially when we were planning the road layouts, we had many options. The property has road frontage on two different roadways. We wanted to put the entrances to minimize the impact to the wetlands crossings on the land.”
“After a few layouts, we were able to create a whole project with zero building touching wetlands crossings. There are a total of three larger wetlands crossings on the property. We were also able to incorporate all of those as sensitive areas for the preservation aspect.”
Almost 30 acres, or roughly 40%, of the property is in preservation areas. Residents will be able to interact with and respect the wildlife and land, as it exists naturally.
“We were working with the engineers with different layouts for at least a year,” Michael said.”
“Yes, then they put a series of different alignments out in the fields and Michael and I went out and walked them,” Jerry explained. “We would look at one and say, ‘no, this isn’t going to work or you have to move this’. There was a lot of back and forth, design time, go back and walk the fields. There was more than any other development I’ve worked on. It was significant.”
BryCorp chose to work on this development in Burlington because of their roots there, but also because of the very specific nature of well, the nature, in Burlington.
“What’s interesting about Burlington is that almost 50% of the land here can never be developed,” Jerry said. “Much of it is watershed and state forest. We liked this piece of land because of its location near the reservoir and the Burlington waterfalls. It was difficult to develop but we were happy to get it. That’s why we spent so much time trying to make the roads and houses fit the land, not the other way around. Other’s will move heaven and earth to make the roads fit. We spent a lot of time and frankly a lot of money to build it this way. It was certainly not the cheapest, or highest-density plan we could have built. But we knew that going in. That wasn’t the goal. The goal was to produce a project we could be proud of.”
“It’s not just about money,” Michael said. “It’s about that pride in the land, development, homes and quality of materials that we use. Even when things aren’t the least expensive, we feel they’re the best for our work. The end result is a beautiful, top quality home.”
Integrated into the preservation aspect of Clearwater Creek is an environmentally responsible storm water management system. Once they had the layout set, the storm water management was figured out to use the land and the rain, with about 10 total rain gardens, level spreaders and bioswales; all examples using land grading, native vegetation and other non-destructive techniques to pull storm water and snow melt away from infrastructure and reuse it back into the environment.
“These measures use the vegetation fed by the rain water to filter out pollutants,” Christine explained. “Storm water runoff is one of the major pollutants in our water. It helps recharge the aquifer with cleaner water. It’s much more like the natural process on undeveloped land, so we tried to mimic that.”
“Typically… they put these huge holding ponds,” Jerry explained. “You have to devastate a lot of land to build those things and they’re costly and difficult for the town to maintain.”
Because of their responsible planning, proactive outreach to neighboring landowners (and their feedback,) BryCorp passed easily through the zoning and hearings with the town, which in zoning is no small feat.
“We were also very conscious about where we put the preservation lines,” Christine said. “Especially with the areas that are important to addressing the water quality, the riparian areas, the steep slopes… We tried to position most of the developed area so that those preservation points start just before the slopes.” Aluminum boundary markers were placed on trees on each plot so homeowners know to not build and cut trees in those areas.
Jerry also mentioned that erosion and sedimentation control are a huge issue for many developments. “Previously what’s been done, is people use black plastic silt fences, which are only marginally effective and aren’t usually installed correctly. They also have a capacity and too much erosion can overtake these fences. They rarely get taken up and they’re not biodegradable. So we decided to use the stumps from trees we cleared. We put them in a grinder, which produces a shredding type of wood scrap, like spaghetti. Around the entire project, we made berms with these shreddings. They can be permeated enough to let water through, but stopped the erosion. When the project is wrapping up, we simply go in with a backhoe and just swoosh them away, they biodegrade, and it’s done.”
Homes in Clearwater Creek can be built in about five months. There are 13 different floor plans with between 2750 and 3400 square feet to choose from. The price point is in the area of $500 – $600 thousand. “We wanted each home to have its own personality and be different but still match the neighborhood,” Christine said. There is an old quality and craftsmanship look in new homes.
“We do a lot of different things from the insulation in the walls and ceilings to the windows and doors being Energy Star rated, that make the homes energy efficient and above code,” Michael said. The garages in the homes are even insulated. There is a list of home details that you can download here.
Read more about the project and its available homes at www.brycorpbuilders.com or call (860) 404-2336.