WOBURN - The Planning Board could consider a loosening of subdivision regulations where city officials would more frequently waive dimensional and design standards in exchange for larger mitigation concessions.
During a recent meeting in City Hall, Planning Director Tina Cassidy contended that such a quid quo pro system could prove pivotal as the city continues to run out of large expanses of untouched and underutilized land parcels.
Ultimately, the planners took no formal action regarding the concept, as the idea is still in its infancy.
"I'm going to try to work on an application like that," said Cassidy, who expects to return in the coming months with a draft version of the overhaul.
With more substantial pieces of real-estate being gobbled-up and redeveloped over the past decade, the city officials anticipate they will increasingly see plans for smaller subdivisions. There is also concern that with available land inventory shrinking, those future pitches will involve properties with development obstacles such as wetlands, large ledge deposits, or unusual topography.
"So you think we'll be seeing smaller subdivisions?" asked Planning Board Chairman David Edmonds.
"I'm convinced that's what we'll be seeing," responded Cassidy. "There's probably one significant parcel [off of Burlington Street] left for a big development."
Citing one major area of concern, the planning director explained that under existing rules, subdivisions involving less than four home lots are not subject to the state's stormwater management requirements.
According to Cassidy, under the proposed waiver system, in exchange for voluntary compliance with the drainage and runoff standards would be more likely to obtain relief from setback, lot size, or other development design standards. She believes such a trade off would be more than justified, as neighborhood flooding issues are already commonplace across the city.
The city officials are also considering how to incorporate other important concessions, such as subdivision compliance with so-called "complete streets" standards, into the waiver process.
"[I think] there's a way to use the waiver arena. We could say, if you want a waiver on any of these things, comply with the stormwater act, which has a significant advantage for the city," said the planning director.
Under the state's local-option Subdivision Control Law, municipal planning boards exercise some measure of control over the division of land for new homes or commercial entities by instituting uniform standards around site grading, lot size and setbacks, roadway access, and the installation of public utilities.
Communities are also able to mandate the implementation of traffic mitigation and other public safety measures, while state regulations govern certain development components like drainage and stormwater management controls.