WOBURN - In light of a recent neighborhood outcry over the rezoning proposal, a Boston developer will hit the pause button on legislation aimed at fostering the construction of a life sciences campus at Middlesex Canal Parkway's Showcase Cinemas property.
According to local attorney Joseph Tarby, who is representing the Davis Companies, his client will ask the City Council next Tuesday night for permission to withdraw without prejudice a plan to establish a new Life Sciences and Business Mixed-Use Overlay District (LBOD) around a large chunk of the National Amusements site that sits between Lowell Street and the Route 38/Route 128 rotary.
Looking to meet with area abutters sometime after the start of 2022, the petitioner would then presumably re-introduce the overlay district proposal later this winter.
The City Council was advised about the request in a Dec. 15 letter from Tarby that was received yesterday by City Clerk Lindsay Higgins’ office.
Reached in his Unicorn Park Drive office on Friday morning, the Rubin and Rudman lawyer explained that during a City Council meeting earlier this month, his client was taken aback by the number of residential abutters who are opposing the zoning initiative.
Later hosting a neighborhood meeting to discuss those concerns, which include questions about the safety record of biotech companies and fears that a future development will sit too close to abutting homes, Davis Company representatives believe it makes sense to take a step back.
“What we heard from the residents in the area was that the process is moving too fast and they only just recently became aware of what was going on with the Showcase Cinemas site,” said Tarby.
“There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the proposal and life-science uses in general. So we decided we would ask for a request to withdraw to slow the process down and hold an additional neighborhood meeting some time after the New Year to clarify the project,” he further explained in a phone interview this morning.
The Davis Companies, which manages a myriad of biotech and research and development (R&D) facilities in Boston, Cambridge and Watertown, has agreed to purchase an approximate 26-acre portion of the National Amusements site, which overlooks I-95.
The zoning petition, filed by representatives at company subsidiary TDC Development Group, aims to allow bioscience and R&D uses around that parcel, which consists of a rarely used overflow parking lot on the Lowell Street side of the cinema complex.
In November, Davis Companies vice president for development Kristopher Yetman detailed a preliminary plan to construct two multi-story buildings containing around 200,000 square feet on the site.
Since far more offensive uses, such as an office park development with 80-foot tall buildings, are arguably allowed on the Showcase Cinemas site under existing zoning regulations, the petitioner had not anticipated much pushback from area abutters in regards to the LBOD petition.
During a public hearing earlier this month, many local residents, who had only just heard about the redevelopment proposal, listed a number of safety and public health concerns about bioscience uses, which can include experimentation with biological materials and hazardous chemicals and solvents.
According to Tarby, his clients’ top goal in the coming weeks is to assuage those worries by explaining that most bioscience and R&D firms - like robotics, advanced pharma, and medical device makers - are completely innocuous.
“We want to try to address the concerns and make sure people really understand what the project is about. These are clean uses and low traffic generators.”
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