TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Planning Board met for a virtual meeting via WebEx on Feb. 1, 2021.
The board approved a revision to the land disturbance permit application fee schedule.
The board discussed a bond release and as-built acceptance for 24 Sunnyslope Ave. Member Jay Delaney recused himself from the discussion. Consultant Jim Hanley reviewed a letter from the town engineer and updated the board on recent project developments.
The board expressed their satisfaction and approved the release of the $10,000 bond.
The board returned to a discussion on a bond release and as-built acceptance of Robbie Terris Way. Representative Richard Cuoco informed the board that the proponent had met with Town Engineer Kevin Hardiman and was making minor adjustments. Cuoco asked to continue the item indefinitely, and the board agreed.
The board reviewed a site plan special permit, special permit, and land disturbance permit for MDR Construction at 935 Main St. Developer Mike Saccone and consultant Andy Street reviewed the plan with members, which was originally presented in conceptual form in October of 2020.
The site, which is the location of the former Tewksbury police station, sits in the town center overlay district. The proposed plan includes nine structures — eight two-bedroom, 3-story townhouse style duplexes, and one two-story building with a bottom floor office and two residential units, totaling 18 units.
The project will also be providing 20 parking spaces for the Tewksbury Housing Authority as part of their agreement as set by the original request for proposal from the town. Saccone added that the parking spots will be reserved for housing authority residents and will be signed and enforced.
Saccone sought two waivers for a setback for parking and the required number of parking spaces for residential units. There will be two affordable units, and all will be rentals.
Saccone explained that the commercial space will be home to the offices of MDR Construction and Dargoonian Farms.
Members expressed concerns about limiting parking for the townhouses, and asked about the removal of many trees on the property.
Saccone explained that he received permission from the town to remove trees before the project started, allowing him to avoid excess trucking when construction begins.
Member Eric Ryder said the project was a “missed opportunity” for more commercial space in the town center rather than residential units. Saccone explained that he spent years trying to secure a commercial tenant but couldn’t find any interest.
“If we didn’t have a [commercial] tenant in hand, it wouldn’t make sense financially... we tried really hard,” he said.
Members expressed further concerns over the number of affordable units, snow storage, and the impact of the project on housing authority residents, specifically with regard to light and noise.
“I’d like to see something done for the elderly people,” said member Jay Delaney.
Saccone and Street discussed the possibility of adding a buffer or moving buildings closer together or to the street. Saccone said that a fence could be easily installed along the border; the board requested renderings of the buffer design.
Street said he would also look at adding sidewalks in response to concerns over access to a bus stop on Route 38. Delaney said the property was being used by housing authority residents to reach Main Street, and asked why the land wasn’t being developed into public housing.
“This whole property was originally going to be for the housing authority, from what I understand, and it’s not happening, it’s not happening the way I think the state intended it,” he said.
Saccone explained that he spent nearly two years working with the town trying to develop the land for use by the housing authority, but both parties agreed that there was no possible way to make it work.
“Don’t lose site of the fact that the Town of Tewksbury decided to put an RFP out and take money from a private developer from the property,” Saccone said.
The board decided to continue the item to their Feb. 22 meeting.
The board reviewed a modification to a site plan special permit for 1650 and 1668 Shawsheen St. Attorney George Malonis explained that the special permit was originally issued in 2000; at the time, the property was owned by one party, but eventually a second building was built.
The request asked for a modification to allow for two parties to own the property. Delaney asked about issues with traffic. Consultant Matt Hamor explained that use of the buildings has not changed, but there are no issues with traffic at this time.
“Nothing on this is changing from our previous approval of the project itself,” said member Steve Johnson. “This is really just a matter of allowing two different owners to own what used to be one bigger project that we approved. All the rules and everything we put in place when we originally approved it remain, but the ownership of 1650 and 1668 will be two different owners.”
The board voted to approve the modification as requested.
The board returned to a discussion on a site plan special permit at 913 East St. for Francesca Land, LLC. Representatives Jim Hanley and Dick Cuoco gave a “status update” on the project.
Hanley explained that the property is currently being used as a commercial space, and the owner is seeking to put a 7,000 square foot addition onto a freestanding garage. He addressed a town review letter; he said that sidewalks would pose a “significant cost” to the project and asked if the board would allow for a landscaped grass strip to help with drainage.
Hanley added that the owner disagrees with the DPW’s stormwater assessment of the property.
He reviewed a letter from an abutter expressing concerns over noise and traffic and responded by saying that the hours, use, and number of trucks will remain the same.
Hanley previewed a landscaping plan that will add blue point junipers and cherry trees to the front of the property along East Street.
Ryder asked about ensuring the continued maintenance of the landscaping; Cuoco said that the property has at least one landscaper on the premises and will be able to maintain it.
Members still asked about including a requirement for landscaping upkeep. The board continued the issue to Feb. 22.
The next meeting is scheduled for Feb. 22, 2021. Residents wishing to comment may find the call-in number on their screen and on the meeting agenda on the town website. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 99 and Verizon channel 33.