WOBURN - The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) late last week posted a draft decision that attaches about a dozen conditions to Woburn 38 Development's plan to fulfill crushed rock orders directly from the Ledges at Woburn construction site.
The four-page document was posted to the City of Woburn website just nine-days after the local officials agreed the proposed removal of crushed stone by third-party buyers is not materially different than letting the North Woburn landowners' excavation contractor handle that task.
That ruling, made during a ZBA meeting in City Hall on Oct. 16, sets the stage for a favorable decision in Woburn 38 Development's favor as the firm seeks to bypass a cease-and-desist order that forbids contractors from loading up third-party customers' trucks with freshly processed rock.
Presently, the active North Woburn construction zone at 1042 Main St. is the site of an enormous ledge removal and rock processing operation, which will pave the way for the erection of a 168-unit apartment complex by the Altavesta Elementary School. In total, some 357,000 cubic yards of ledge needs to be blasted out of the hilly terrain and then removed as part of the pre-construction site work.
Concord attorney Paul Haverty, representing Woburn 38 parent company Franklin Construction, was asked earlier this month by ZBA Chair Margaret Pinkham to craft the first iteration of a proposed written decision sanctioning the third-party trucking arrangements.
Though Haverty has delivered that promised document, that draft decision posted to the city's website in recent days is likely to become subject of further revisions as Pinkham and ZBA member John Ray conduct their own review of the proposed conditions. The full ZBA plans to vote on the final version of the decision, which would modify Woburn 38 Development's comprehensive permit for a 168-unit apartment complex.
Some of the proposed restrictions included in Haverty's proposed decision are as follows:
• All trucks entering the construction site to pick-up processed materials must have a carrying capacity of at least 18 cubic yards and no more than 35 cubic yards;
• No trucks will be allowed to queue along Main Street, and all drivers must adhere to a truck staging plan submitted to the ZBA on Oct. 5;
• The front gates into 1042 Main St. may no open prior to 7 a.m., and trucks entering the property may not idle on the site for longer than 5 minutes;
• All aggregate materials sales must be initiated off-site by excavation contractor Onyx Construction, which is strictly forbidden from advertising the availability of crushed rock at 1042 Main St.;
• A weigh station, which was recently installed just inside the gated entrance into the construction site off of Main St., must remain on the grounds until all earth removal activity has been completed;
• Onyx Construction is required to install video cameras, equipped with a live-feed, which will record all activity by the industrial scale. Those recordings must be maintained for at least 60 days and any such footage must be provided to Building Inspector Thomas Quinn upon request;
• All heavy vehicle operators must adhere to state regulations regarding how material loads must be secured in order to prevent debris from falling onto local streets and causing safety hazards;
• And all truck drivers must use the most "direct route" to their destination and shall be prohibited from traveling along any local roadway where heavy commercial traffic is banned.
Late last spring, the building commissioner issued a cease-and-desist order to Woburn 38 after discovering that Onyx Construction had posted advertisements that invited landscapers and other aggregate materials customers to purchase their products directly from 1042 Main St.
At the time, the Acton-based excavation contractor was just weeks into a massive earthworks operation that involves extensive blasting activity and the use of heavy machinery to grind down that stone into aggregate materials.
Per a 2015 ruling by the state's Housing Appeals Committee (HAC), the pre-construction site work phase of the housing project is expected to last roughly two years.
Explaining his order to Woburn 38 Development and Onyx officials, Quinn declared the sale of crushed stone — even if the arrangements solely involved the pickup of those products — as akin to running a quarry or retail sales operation. Each of those businesses, the building commissioner insisted, were prohibited uses within the underlying residential zoning district.
In its subsequent appeal, Haverty claimed the HAC's 2015 decision supersedes Woburn's zoning regulations and granted his client permission to sell any processed stone.
Last June, during an introductory administrative hearing regarding the appeal, the ZBA scoffed at that contention by demanding the lawyer highlight a single sentence in the HAC decision that granted those rights. Given that derision, Haverty quickly agreed to shelve that aspect of the appeal.
Instead, the Concord attorney, who specializes in Chapter 40B law, turned to a secondary aspect of the petition that asked the ZBA to modify his client's permits to allow for the rock sales. By agreeing to that request, the city officials would essentially create an end-around of Quinn's cease-and-desist order.
ZBA members, fearful of rejecting the appeal and eventually finding themselves back before the HAC, last week took the first step towards modifying the comprehensive permit.
Had the city officials concluded the third-party trucking arrangements would constitute a "substantial change", the petitioner would have been required to start the process over by convening a public hearing.
Haverty had hinted that his client would challenge such a ruling to the HAC. Given the city's dismal success rate before the state board, ZBA members insisted the community was better off okaying the permit change with conditions. However, to date, the public has been unable to comment at the ZBA meetings, as the matter is being handled as an administrative appeal.
North Woburnites, who insist that Woburn 38 is already ignoring a host of relevant state and federal regulations regarding dust control, blasting activity, and work site safety practices, are furious about Woburn 38's most recent request to allow third-party truck access.
However, to date, the public has been unable to comment at the ZBA meetings, as the matter is being handled as an administrative appeal.
The city officials' recent decision to classify the third-party truck activity as an insubstantial change to Woburn 38's existing permits permanently shuts citizens out of the process. Specifically, in making that ruling, the ZBA has essentially declared that the petitioner's request is not subject to a public hearing process.