TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Planning Board met for an in-person meeting on Sept. 13, 2021 in Tewksbury Town Hall. Board member Eric Ryder was not present.
The board approved a bond release request for 20 Carter St.
The board endorsed an approval-not-required plan to split a “funky-looking lot,” according to board member Vinny Fratalia, at 1123 Chandler St.
The board approved family suite special permits at 45 Ninth St. and 2 Kingfisher Road.
The board continued a hearing for a family suite special permit at 5 Florence Ave. because the petitioner did not attend the meeting.
The board reviewed a special permit application for Tewksbury Funeral Home at 967-975 Main St. Owner John McDonough and Civil Design Consultants project manager Meera Cousens explained that with the recent demolition of the funeral home’s adjacent building, McDonough is seeking to expand the funeral home and parking lot.
McDonough will be requesting waivers, and plans to have his team respond to the town engineer’s comments.
Board members asked about plans to move the home’s existing sign, which McDonough had not planned for; member Bob Fowler said he would rather let McDonough start construction and not hold up the project.
Member Jay Delaney asked about fencing: “Can you make it look better than it’s going to look?”
McDonough explained that trees will be planted as a landscape feature. The board continued the discussion.
Assistant Town Manager Steve Sadwick presented amendments to the town’s zoning bylaw which will be voted on at special Town Meeting on Oct. 5. Along with state environmental officials, Sadwick explained that the amendments seek to update the Groundwater Protection District to include institutional controls as part of the town’s compliance with the consent decree regarding the Sutton Brook Disposal Area as recommended by the US EPA and MassDEP.
As part of the superfund site’s closure, the town is required to protect public health. The two articles presented at special Town Meeting will change the text of the bylaw and establish an updated corresponding map.
Certain restrictions include plume area and buffer area districts with provisions for special permits and controls. The board voted to recommend adoption.
The board reviewed a sign special permit application for Brian Dick of Dick Insurance Agency.
Dick and his representative, Brandon Currier of Barlo Signs, explained that the agency is seeking to install a small LED electronic message center below the existing sign. The electric sign will have a daylight sensor to limit distractions to drivers.
Dick requested waivers to allow the sign to display in full color rather than only the color amber, as required by the town bylaw.
Fratalia asked what the agency planned to advertise on the sign. Dick said that he planned to display expanded services.
The board approved waivers because “the sign is in the best interest and the detriment is not beyond its benefit to the town,” according to chairman Steve Johnson. The board approved the sign special permit.
The board continued a discussion on a site plan special permit, special permit for the town center overlay district and groundwater protection district for Carolina Properties at 30 East St. to Oct. 4 at the petitioner’s request.
The board returned to a discussion about a site plan special permit, special permit for the town center overlay district and groundwater protection district for John Sullivan at 24 Pleasant St., the current site of Sycamore Hall.
Representative Dave Plunkett explained that the proponent is requesting a waiver for an eight foot fence to benefit abutters. Plunkett reviewed a letter from the DPW that outlined outstanding issues with wastewater treatment.
Engineer Doug Lees addressed runoff and swale plans, arguing that because the plan is considered a minor project under town bylaws, it is exempt from certain regulations. Lees added that the design will provide a stormwater treatment chamber, and addresses fire truck radial requirements.
Traffic Engineer Ken Cram reviewed the traffic impact study, adding that the project is a net increase of three units. The study accounts for impacts from the new Pleasant Street elementary school, and uses pre-COVID traffic counts and seasonal traffic patterns.
Cram projected an increase of 7-9 additional peak hour car trips, defined as a car going in or out of the property. Cram said the project would not have a significant impact on the town center, resulting in a delay of 0.8 seconds.
Board members expressed concerns over cars stopping in the proposed striped zone outside the driveway on Pleasant Street; many members did not believe drivers would abide by the striping.
Cram said that enforcement will be handled by the Tewksbury Police Department as with all other traffic lines.
Fowler recommended the developer install a “do not block driveway” sign; engineer Lees said that such a sign was already included in the plans submitted to the town.
Abutter Justin Marino thanked the developer for improving stormwater and increasing fence height. He asked about curbing in high water events. Lees said that the six-inch curb should hold the water back.
The board advised the proponent to settle conditions and check in with the town engineer before continuing the discussion to the next meeting.
The board approved an as-built acceptance and the release of two bonds totaling over $44,000 for Joe LaLiberte and Robert Fondelli at Robbie Terris Way. The board recommended street acceptance to the Board of Selectmen.
The board returned to a discussion about sidewalks at 93 East St. Representative Jim Hanley explained that the board had granted a waiver for construction of a sidewalk or a payment of fee in lieu of sidewalks and said that his client wanted to choose the fee in lieu of sidewalks option due to the cost of construction.
Hanley said that using DOT and DPW pricing formulas, the town cost to build sidewalks is higher than the developer cost, which is about $17,766.73.
“I just don’t think the price, $55,000, is fair, the price should be more aligned with what he quoted, about $20,000,” said Delaney.
Hanley said that prices are “inflated” for the town, while his client pays their own price. Fratalia suggested using the money to build a sidewalk across the street for residents to use “rather than having it just go into the fund.”
Delaney said that the money should be used to finish sidewalks on Shawsheen Street; other members said that funding is already in place to finish the Shawsheen project.
Hanley added that the fee is up to the board. The board set the fee to $20,000 with provisions as to where money can be spent in town on sidewalks.
Fowler raised concerns over why administrative items had been moved to the end of the agenda. Johnson said that late-submitted items and preliminary discussions were moved to keep other agenda items from having to wait through the administrative items section.
[Author’s note: At the board’s March 22 meeting, then-chairman Fowler asked Town Planner Anna McGinty and board members to consider moving the administrative items to the end of the agenda at McGinty’s suggestion; the policy was ultimately adopted.]
In correspondence, Johnson noted that the Hanover Company’s proposed development at 300 Ames Pond Road has been filed with the state as a 40B project, and that any relevant comments from board members on the submission were requested.
“We always try to keep it a friendly process,” said Fowler.
“I don’t think in this version they even have to come here at all,” added Johnson.
[a/n: developers following a regular Chapter 40B process need only appear before the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals, which is required only to determine that housing needs outweigh any valid planning objections - communities in which subsidized housing accounts for less than 10 percent of year-round housing stock, as Tewksbury is projected to be following the 2020 federal census numbers, are considered in need of additional affordable housing.]
The next meeting is scheduled for Sept. 27, 2021. Residents may find previous recorded meetings at youtube.com/TewksburyTV. The meeting may be viewed on Comcast channel 99 and Verizon channel 33 or attend in person at town hall.