TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Board of Selectmen met on Aug. 17, 2021, for an in-person meeting at town hall. Member James Mackey was not present.
The board approved a pole petition from National Grid to move a pole at 820 Shawsheen St.; member Jayne Wellman recused herself from the issue because her property is affected.
The board also approved a pole petition from National Grid to install four new poles to support a new development on Pond Street.
The board reappointed Julie Bonavita to the public events and celebrations committee. The board also modified the housing authority tenant member term.
Member Cheryl Wright had previously been approved for a three-year term; however, under MGL chapter 121B section 5, housing authority terms are set at five years.
The board approved Berna’s Great Legs 5K road race for Aug. 19, 2021, which raises funds and awareness for the homeless.
The board approved an easement at 1069 South St. to allow for National Grid access to the solar farm at Sutton Brook Landfill, a superfund site.
The board held a 40B process presentation to discuss the project proposed by the Hanover Company at Ames pond with the town’s contracted land use attorney and 40B expert Mark Bobrowski.
Initially, the project was conceptualized as a Local Initiative Program, or “friendly 40B,” a process in which the developer works with local officials to shape the project; however, Hanover is planning to move forward under a standard 40B process, which only requires a project eligibility letter from a state housing subsidizing agency and a comprehensive permit issued from the town Zoning Board of Appeals.
Under state law, if a municipality has not reached the 10 percent threshold of affordable housing out of year-round housing stock, “the need for housing presumptively outweighs local concerns” [of traffic, open space, neighborhood character, etc], said Bobrowski, adding that developers have a right to reasonable return on investment, while municipalities have the right to enforce local rules and regulations as long as they do not impede on financeability.
Bobrowski may represent the town in an appeal over conditions, which only the developer can initiate. When the developer submits the project at the state level, MassHousing will be responsible for reviewing the town’s response letter to incorporate local concerns, such as traffic issues, into project eligibility instructions.
Assistant Town Manager Steve Sadwick predicted a deficit of 50 to 60 affordable units following the release of 2020 federal Census data.
Member Jayne Wellman asked what projects had been approved that would contribute to total affordable units; Sadwick noted 21 affordable veterans housing units and seven regular affordable units, but added that units cannot be counted as affordable stock until permits are pulled by the developer.
Chairman Jay Kelly asked how flexible developers usually are in responding to municipalities’ needs; Bobrowski said that 40B developers typically incorporate budget line items to account for potential changes.
Bobrowski added that a developer can request a waiver on any conditions, and it is up to the ZBA to consult with relevant local boards and committees. He also noted that 25 percent of units in a development must be affordable, 10 percent of units in a 40B project must be three-bedroom, and all of the 300 units will count toward the town’s subsidized housing index as the state is seeking to incentivize the development of rental units.
The number of units was last stated as 324 during a previous presentation to the board.
A large number of residents were in attendance at the meeting, including many abutters of the proposed site. Resident Bob O’Brien asked about the attorney’s role in the process and Bobrowski explained that he will be primarily responsible for coordinating peer reviewers for the project covering traffic, civil design, etc.
Bobrowski also confirmed that wetlands restrictions remain in effect.
Resident Robert Wald asked what qualified as a reasonable return on investment for a developer and Bobrowski pinpointed a 5.7 percent return on total cost.
The board voted to authorize the town to enter into an agreement to retain Bobrowski’s services.
In other matters, Town Manager Richard Montuori announced that while public meetings will continue to be held in person, the town is eliminating virtual meeting options in September due to low participation and labor intensity for telemedia staff. Virtual options will be left open for committee members who cannot participate in person but not for the public.
The board discussed three warrant articles proposed for special Town Meeting to change the name “Board of Selectmen” to “Select Board,” a move that follows many Massachusetts communities.
Montuori drafted the articles at the board’s request. Wellman, Anne Marie Stronach, and Todd Johnson all supported bringing the article to Town Meeting to allow residents to vote on the change.
Chairman Jay Kelly expressed reservations about the perception of “forcing” the article on residents, adding that he didn’t want to be the “king of the community” in deciding on issues like naming.
Johnson said that the changes refer to the board the members serve on, and so they should be the ones sponsoring the articles. He added that the Town Meeting form of government gives residents the power to decide, and if they are opposed they should show up and make decisions.
“Don’t stay home if you care about it,” he said. “Show up and be heard.”
The board voted 3-1 to sponsor the article, with Kelly as the dissenting vote.
The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 14, 2021. Residents may find the meeting agenda on the town website. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 99 and Verizon channel 33.