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Zoning Bylaw Committee Hears Resident Comments, Reviews Retail Marijuana Survey Results

The Tewksbury Zoning Bylaw Committee met on Tuesday for its final public input session. The two Planning Board members, Stephen Johnson and Bob Fowler, were absent.

Draft bylaw information can be found here, and residents may view informational videos on the bylaw here.

Chair Todd Johnson opened the meeting by inviting those in attendance to speak. Resident Bob O’Brien asked the committee to define MFD, or multifamily developments.

Assistant town manager Steve Sadwick pointed to the definition in the proposed Zoning Bylaw draft. O’Brien wanted to clarify that single-family homes cannot be MFD; Sadwick pointed out that a standalone home within a condominium development with shared common areas would qualify. O’Brien also questioned whether Office Research (OR) zoning will remain. It will.

There is resident concern that, should the proposed apartment complex development at Ames Pond fall through, cluster housing could be proposed for the lot.

Board member Richard Cuoco clarified that multifamily is no longer allowed in OR zones, including Ames Pond. Member Erin Wortman clarified that the exception would be a 40B proposal that overrides local zoning.

Johnson noted that the Committee meets again on Feb. 2 and invited residents to email any further communication by then to its dedicated email address, zoning@tewksbury-ma.gov.

“We’re gonna shut off that communication, presumably around the second of February, so that we can wrap up our business in time for the town meeting warrant,” said Johnson.

Note that the warrant for the Annual and Special Town Meetings, scheduled for May 2 and May 4, respectively, opened on Jan. 12 and closes on Feb. 25 at 4:30 p.m., so the committee needs to finalize its recommendations and maps by that date.

Johnson then invited new town planner Alex Louder to run through the results of the marijuana survey that ran from Dec. 22 through last Friday. The survey garnered 1,426 responses.

Some highlights:

  1. 1,411 respondents live in Tewksbury, 63 own businesses in Tewksbury and 26 said they wish to open a marijuana-based business in Tewksbury.
  2. When asked about support for retail marijuana facilities in Tewksbury, 902 said yes, 191 said yes but with restrictions and 333 are opposed.
  3. Residents prefer these facilities in commercial (1,085) or industrial (710) zones, and of those who oppose retail marijuana, the No. 1 reason was an expected increase in crime.

And older residents are nearly as supportive as their younger neighbors.

“I broke down all of the data by the age brackets,” said Louder. “Each age bracket did respond in the affirmative, either with restrictions or by right.”

Find the full results here.

The question now before the committee is whether to include that zoning in the new bylaw proposal or to bring it to Town Meeting separately.

Resident O’Brien asked whether there would be a limit to the number of allowable establishments; Johnson responded that this is in the Mass. statute. For example, no dispensary is allowed within 500 feet of a school.

Finally, Sadwick presented the new proposed maps to the committee. The maps were developed with four guiding principles:

  1. Eliminate split-zoned lots.
  2. Align Main St. districts with the master plan.
  3. Eliminate MN (Municipal District) zoning.
  4. Reduce the number of overlay districts.

The new bylaw would add as new districts South Village, Town Center, Village Mixed Use and Village Residential.

“Driving down Rt. 38, there’s very different characteristics in different sections of Rt. 38; the master plan from 2004 pointed this out,” said Sadwick. “The idea of having overlay districts along Rt. 38 was an attempt to try and bring the zoning closer to what the master plan had called for. I think, over time, we’ve realized that created confusion as to what was allowed on on Main St. So this zoning bylaw actually breaks up Rt. 38 into a number of different zoning districts to match the different characteristics.”

The committee is also in favor of eliminating the municipal district and trying to integrate those lots back into the zoning of the surrounding neighborhoods.

Interested residents should visit the committee’s web page and review the information available, including the new proposed maps. The full meeting is available now on YouTube.

Finally, Johnson thanked residents for their input and reminded them that these efforts will hopefully culminate in a favorable vote at Town Meeting in May.

“We appreciate, as a committee, the feedback we’ve received through this process,” said Johnson. “It’s an important component of what we’re trying to accomplish. We hope that whether your suggestions were adopted or ultimately get adopted, we hope that you’ll attend the town meeting, and we certainly hope that you’ll be supportive of the article that we put forward there.”

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