TEWKSBURY — The Tewksbury Planning Board met for a hybrid meeting on July 19, 2021. Member Jay Delaney attended virtually via WebEx. Member Eric Ryder was not present.
The board appointed Bob Fowler and Steve Johnson as representatives to the zoning bylaw committee.
The board approved a family suite special permit for 61 Debra Drive.
The board approved a family suite special permit for 7 Boisvert Road.
The board continued a discussion about a site plan special permit and special permit for the town center overlay district and groundwater protection district at 30 East St. to Aug. 16.
The board returned to a discussion about a site plan special permit, special permit, and land disturbance permit for Tewksbury Home Build at 1660 Main St. Consultant Jim Hanley and veterans nonprofit Soldier On’s representatives Peter Graham and Bruce Buckley gave the board another overview of the project, which consists of 21 affordable studio units for veterans.
Hanley discussed several waivers, adding that there will be very little impact to schools, roads, and services. Fowler asked the proponents to consider adding more snow storage.
Board member Jay Delaney said the project was “nothing but good for the town because of the affordable units.”
The board approved five waivers, including a building height waiver, and conditions for 70 percent unit preference for Tewksbury veterans and a plan to allow for registered sex offenders to live in the building pending approval by the Department of Housing and Economic Development.
The board also approved the site plan special permit, special permit, and land disturbance permit.
The board returned to a discussion on a modification to a site plan special permit and land disturbance permit for New England Power Company at 205 Washington St. Attorney David Waterfall reviewed the status of the project, along with 22 waivers following comments from the town engineer.
The board approved the waivers, modification to site plan special permit, and land disturbance permit.
The board reviewed a non-substantial change request for Home Depot at 85 Main St. The request will take 16 parking spaces for an annual temporary seasonal corral for live goods, to be used from April to August. The board approved the change.
In new business, chairman Steve Johnson brought up the recent selectmen meeting and a 40B “proposal” near Ames Pond [author’s note: the project has not yet been proposed to the town; rather, the Hanover Company only gave an informational presentation before the selectmen].
“There have been numerous different presentations for potential things that could go up there [on the parcel],” Johnson said. “Once again, the blame for this seems to fall at our feet with revisionist history or flat-out confusion.”
Johnson recounted warning residents at spring Town Meeting against altering the proposed zoning bylaw, and brought up past proposed projects for the parcel, including a casino and townhouses.
“If you keep doing this [rejecting projects] and you don’t find a way to get to yes on something, you’re going to get to a point where you’re not going to be able to say no anymore,” said Johnson, adding that he feels blame often falls on the Planning Board when developers opt to pay a fee in lieu of affordable units to the town’s affordable housing trust fund when it is an allowable action under the current zoning bylaw [author’s note: according to Section 7010 of the town’s zoning bylaw, the Planning Board in its role as the town’s special permit granting authority is responsible for approving requests to waive affordable units for an equivalent fee in lieu of units].
The board invited Local Housing Partnership chair Nancy Reed to speak about “that ‘awful’ fee in lieu of money and what it hasn’t apparently done,” said Johnson (Reed was the former chair and a 15-year member (2002-2017) of the Planning Board).
Johnson said Reed was not there as a citizen, but as the chair of the Local Housing Partnership [author's note: Reed did not appear on the posted agenda].
Reed handed out a spreadsheet to members; Johnson said that “if the information is accurate,” the town took in fees ranging from $130,000- $200,000 per unit [author’s note: according to town records, several properties took in fees in the $20,000 range], and created 141 affordable units.
Reed said that if the board had not taken in fees, only 78 affordable units would have been created [author’s note: according to town records, more than half of the 141 units listed were not newly created but rather preserved as part of the town’s existing subsidized housing stock; of the remaining units, several were funded only partially through the town’s housing trust fund].
“I think our thought process is being validated here,” said Johnson. “An absolute ‘no’ has its limitations.”
Johnson said that the Planning Board has no responsibility to create affordable housing in town, and that the board has no role in the potential 40B project if it is proposed to the town as a Local Initiative Program [author’s note: as part of the Tewksbury selectmen’s LIP process, the Planning Board holds a public hearing on proposed 40B projects].
Reed said that the Local Housing Partnership sought to “get something that’s meaningful” with the trust fund money, “not just regular, everyday affordable housing units, but veteran, elderly housing, handicap, something like that.”
Board member Vinny Fratalia said “people are wrong... all of us are trying to do the right thing.”
The next meeting is scheduled for Aug. 16, 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 or attend in person at town hall.