TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Planning Board met on Monday, July 13, for a marathon meeting via video conference to discuss a lengthy agenda.
Following last month’s town election, the board reorganized, with the proceedings overseen by Town Planner Anna McGinty. Member Bob Fowler was unanimously elected as chair. Steve Johnson was elected as vice chair. Eric Ryder nominated Vinny Fratalia to be clerk, but Fratalia declined the nomination.
Jay Delaney then nominated Eric Ryder to be clerk, noting that it is board tradition for the newly elected member to be clerk (Ryder won reelection to the board in June). Ryder was unanimously elected as clerk.
The board decided to keep their committee assignments the same, though Delaney picked up the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments as the board’s representative. Assistant Town Manager Steve Sadwick explained that NMCOG is the town’s regional planning agency, and provides assistance and funding in transportation and economic development processes.
The board reviewed a concept plan for 1009 Livingston St. The owner is seeking to construct three new homes in addition to one existing house, with two open space parcels. The concept included a sidewalk on one side of the street, and a rain garden to mitigate stormwater issues.
The board reviewed a non-substantial change request for 1325 Main St., the former Discount Madness, as a modification to the special permit. The proponent is seeking to transfer oversight of affordability restrictions to be handled by the building department. The board approved the change.
The board reviewed an approval not required plan at 527 Chandler St. The proposed residential development would be split into nine lots along the corner of Helvetia and Chandler streets, across from the Oblate Novitiate Retirement Home.
The lots meet single family zoning requirements, but will not include any multifamily components.
“This has nothing to do with the petitioner,” said Johnson, “but this is exactly why we shouldn’t have single acre zoning as the only option... this is what they’re forced to do.”
Johnson referenced current zoning bylaws, pointing out the developer must provide nine separate driveways instead of one roadway off of the main streets. Ryder also noted the project was on a difficult corner, and driver safety may be compromised.
Fratalia mentioned that there is no affordable housing component in the development. The board unanimously endorsed the ANR plan, but asked the developer to carefully assess the design of the driveways.
The board reviewed a non-substantial change request for Wamesit Lanes at 434 Main St.
The owner, Don MacLaren, is seeking to correct an error in the use special permit related to indoor and outdoor entertainment.
“[Don MacLaren] has been a tribute to the town. I see absolutely no reason to refuse anything for him at this particular time,” said Delaney.
The board approved the request.
The board reviewed a non-substantial change request for Walgreens at 935 Andover St.
The owner is seeking to realign the driveway and move signage to improve the intersection for the new signalization update. The board approved the request.
The board reviewed an approval not required plan for 180 Pond St., currently the site of the shuttered Disabled American Veterans building. The proponent is seeking to split the property into five lots, each with a one acre minimum. The board endorsed the plan.
The board discussed one of the conditions on the special permit for 495 Woburn St., the proposed Home Depot e-commerce facility. Sadwick explained that a change should be made to the language of the condition to increase flexibility in future traffic improvements. The board approved the new language.
The board reviewed a special permit extension request for 2122 Main St. Board members expressed hesitation at allowing an extension. The proponent explained that financing had been delayed due to the coronavirus, but the project has recently been able to pick back up. The board approved the extension.
The board held a traffic discussion about 325 Marshall St. for a definitive subdivision and open space residential design, developed by Marc Ginsburg. The 55-acre site is zoned for R40 and is one-third wetlands. The parcel currently has one residence, and Ginsburg plans to add 38 more houses.
The project is currently going through the EPA review process. The board reviewed the traffic study for the development, which projected adding one additional car every 1-7 minutes during peak hours.
Ginsburg requested to pay a fee instead of designating units affordable, an issue that split the board.
“I’m going to have to disagree with [Ginsburg],” said Ryder. “I’m very concerned that we’re continuing to go down this road of building what the market is bearing... but we continue to have an issue with affordable housing.”
He discussed feasible ideas proposed by Sadwick, such as prefabricated homes on some of the lots.
“We’re kicking the can down the road [by not designating units affordable]. If the developer has to build a certain number of affordable parcels, then that be the case... Are we just going to keep building these $700,000 houses? What do we do when we get to our next Census [and don’t have enough affordable housing]? It’s not going to be good for the town.”
Ginsburg said that paying the fee is not about the money, rather the way the project is going to look.
“It isn’t like we’re trying to circumvent the affordable component; we’re just going to alternative means. It would be just as cheap to build the affordable unit as it would be to pay the fee. I just don’t think [affordable housing] belongs in this type of subdivision… It seems like we’re trying to do two things at once…it’s the town’s burden, not the developer’s burden.”
Ryder emphasized that it was imperative that the town actually start designating affordable units.
“I don’t think we should be taking money until we’re above 10 percent [affordable units out of all housing units]. People born and raised in this town are getting priced out.”
Ginsburg said he has nothing against affordable homes.
“I’ve had these discussions in the past about trying to find land to build these monolithic affordable housings so everybody feels they’re in the same type of development,” he said. “I hate to be the person to create an environment there that’s the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’... I don’t want to create any disputing neighbors.”
Johnson again mentioned that single acre zoning is limiting options for developers. In the end, the board approved several waivers for the permit.
Four members voted to allow for the affordable housing waiver, while Ryder voted against it. The board voted to approve the permit.
The board reviewed a site plan special permit for Hobart’s Country Store at 2512 Main St.
The proponent is seeking to construct a new building with the same purpose. The board continued the issue to allow time to research a change to a pipe on the property.
The board briefly reviewed a definitive subdivision and open space residential design for 181 Pine St., but due to the late hour, decided to continue the issue to the next meeting.
The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 17, 2020. 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.