A seven-lot residential subdivision on North Benson Road opposed by neighbors has received approval from the Town Plan and Zoning Commission, though several commissioners said the zoning regulations gave them no choice.

The vote on the application by Mark Papini was 7-2 last week, with Rich Jacobs and Jim Kennelly voting against approval.

"The applicant was correct, this does comply," said Commissioner Douglas Soutar. He said the development may be dense, "but the zone itself is dense, there's no getting around that."

Kennelly said the TPZ's hands were tied by statutes and owners have a right to "chop up their property into small lots regardless of what's going on around them; it's sacrosanct, at least in state law."

He said too many people are subdividing their properties "to get every last dime on their way out."

"I'm sympathetic regarding the density," Soutar said, "but we are a nation of laws. We could also wish the town was all AA and AAA zoning, but it's not. We could wish the town was all still farmland, but it's not."

Jacobs said he didn't think there was a level playing field because the opponents did not have the money to hire their own experts to rebut those who spoke for the applicant.

Drainage from the subdivision that could possibly aggravate flooding in the neighborhood was a major concern of the neighbors, although Papini's experts said the project's extensive drainage system -- which Kennelly termed "Rube Goldberg" -- addressed those concerns and would direct runoff into detention systems.

TPZ Chairman Bryan LeClerc said technological advances have allowed construction of drainage systems that wouldn't have been possible years ago. "We were all a subdivision at some point," LeClerc said. "The problem I had is our hands are somewhat tied because it complies with our subdivision regulations."

The commission added several conditions to its approval, including increasing berm heights to 18 inches, deed restrictions to assure long-term maintenance of yard drains, and clearing existing vegetation to achieve recommended sight lines for traffic on North Benson Road.