WOBURN - The City Council recently issued two special permits to a national child care provider that plans to erect a new two-story building at the vacant Sons of Italy site off of Lexington Street.
During their most recent gathering in City Hall, the aldermen voted unanimously in favor of a petition from Atlanta-based Primrose Schools to demolish the West Woburn social club and construct a new daycare facility at 168 Lexington St. by Woburn's Four Corners.
As part of the decision, the City Council declared the petitioner, an educational provider, as eligible for relief from Woburn's zoning ordinances per the state's Dover Amendment. Those superseding state regulations essentially render local zoning controls as moot, if compliance with those municipal rules has the effect of blocking the construction of a religious or educational facility.
The Primrose School sought the zoning waivers for one the new building's side setbacks, which will be at 16.2 feet instead of 25-feet.
The company will also be unable to meet required open-space requirements. However, prior to the recent council vote, Jesse Johnson, the petitioner's civil engineer, explained his client will still be providing significant landscaping improvements at the old Sons of Italy property.
Those new features will include greenery along the property's front entrance at Lexington Street, as well as the planting of trees and the installation of a fence along the side and rear property lines.
"Along the frontage, there are three proposed trees. So we framed the entrance area to have some nice landscaping," said Johnson. "There is fencing that comes all the way back along the retaining wall. So you essentially have a fully secured area along the sides of the building and in the back."
Last month, Ward 1 Alderman Joanne Campbell had expressed concern about the open-space waiver being sought. However, after reviewing the landscaping plan, she told her colleagues that she was happy with the landscaping plan, which she believes will be an improvement over what previously existed at the Lexington Street site.
"I've looked at all the different varieties of plants and trees. I think it's going to look very nice," she said.
The Sons of Italy Club, which previously housed the Shaker Glen Restaurant, is technically situated within an R1 zoning district, where daycare facilities are allowed by special permit.
According to Concord attorney Mark Bobrowski, representing Primrose Schools, his client will raze the existing 12,005 square foot social club and build a new 7,025 square foot facility towards the back of the 1.2-acre parcel.
The two-story facility will be capable of housing a total of 177 students and 28 staff members.
According to the petitioner, by shifting the building footprint about 80-feet back from Lexington Street, Primrose Schools will be able to furnish 45 onsite parking spaces by the front of the property. There will also be enough room to add an outdoor play area by the rear of the building.
Access to the site will be created by a 24-foot wide curb-cut, which will allow two-way traffic to circulate into the driveway. School officials have stressed that clients must park their vehicles and walk their child into the daycare each day, as Primrose Schools has a policy against exterior drop-off routines due to liability concerns.
MDM Transportation Consultant representative Bob Michaud, representing the petitioner, has predicted the new use will bring no more than 66 trips to and from the driveway during morning and evening rush hours.
Despite neighborhood concerns about traffic, especially given the limited on-site parking availability, Michaud predicted the redevelopment would not cause any issues along Lexington Street, which is reportedly used by as many as 17,000 motorists each day.
According to the traffic consultant, Primrose rarely encounters queuing at its other facilities, because the daycare provider allows parents to drop-off children at any time during a three-hour window that begins at 6:30 a.m.
Clients can similarly pick-up their children during a similar three-hour period in the afternoon.
Catering to parents of children aged between six-months and five-years-old, the Primrose franchise will offer half and full day child care services at the proposed Woburn location, which is one of 38 new facilities expected to open across the country this year. Presently, there are only a handful of other Primrose Schools in the immediate area, including properties in Burlington and Andover.
In total, the City Council attached 12 conditions to Primrose's special permits, including the following requirements:
• That the council's Special Permits Committee will be allowed to vet any future proposal to transfer Primrose permits to a new entity;
• That the daycare will be allowed to operate Monday through Friday between the hours of 6:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m.;
• That construction of the new building be limited to the hours of 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Monday through Friday and 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturdays;
• That all exterior lighting be shielded to prevent light pollution in the surrounding residential neighborhood;
• And the applicant's trash hauler be required to empty an onsite dumpster between the hours of 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.