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5 Takeaways From The April 11 Planning Board Meeting

The Tewksbury Planning Board met last night to discuss the new zoning bylaw update.

1. Johnson remains chair following Town Election The board reorganized post the annual town election, which was held on Saturday, April 2 and in which new member Jim Duffy defeated incumbent Jay Delaney for a three-year term. Steve Johnson was reelected as chair, and Bob Fowler was reelected as vice chair. Duffy is clerk. Johnson instructed members to begin considering future committee assignments, as current appointments will expire on June 30.

2. Sign fees are waived for 2022. The board voted to waive sign special permit fees for the rest of 2022 to incentivize businesses along Main Street and Andover Street to invest in upgraded signs and improve the look of the commercial corridor. The policy was recommended by town planner Alexandra Lowder, who noted that businesses will still be required to pay for a building permit. Johnson said that he hoped businesses would minimize the use of electronic signs and cited the new sign at Mac’s Dairy Farm as the type of improvement he wants to see in the community.

3. Board voted to accept the updated Zoning Bylaw. Assistant town manager and community development director Steve Sadwick and zoning bylaw committee chair Todd Johnson presented the updated zoning bylaw draft to the Board. Because the original bylaw rewrite failed at town meeting last year (by just two votes) the resubmittal requires Planning Board approval to go to town meeting again.

Sadwick summarized the revisions, highlighting an agreement among the committee that affordable units will be mandatory for multifamily projects and will be provided on site in open space residential design projects until the town hits the 10% affordable housing threshold. Other changes address billboards, green vehicle sales, native and pollinator plants and sidewalk fees. Residents asked for clarification on building height, allowed uses in the office research district and multifamily development. Steve Johnson urged residents to think about the ramifications of keeping the old bylaw.

“We’ve invested five years of time and thousands of dollars,” said Todd Johnson. “Everyone agrees the current bylaw is flawed in very many ways.” The board voted to recommend adoption of the bylaw (Article 29) and the accompanying map (Article 30).

4. The Board declined to support a controversial citizen petition. The board reviewed Article 31 of the town meeting warrant, “to change the zoning district classification for [108 Maple Street, 118 Maple Street, and 55 Memory Lane] from Residential (R40) to Multiple Family to allow Multi family development of the site.” Petitoner Gora Banerjee explained that he is seeking to recoup an investment on the 10.5 acre lot, and wants to build single family homes on lots smaller than one acre. Johnson explained it would be impossible to do that because the town does not have small-lot zoning, and the town can’t limit development on the property under multifamily zoning. “There is no in-between option,” he said. The board voted to recommend indefinite postponement on the article.

5. Members question Donna’s Donuts parking lot plan. The board reviewed a concept plan design for 2122 Main Street with owner Derek Leider and consultant Matt Hamor. Leider explained that the construction of a retail building on the lot would be financially problematic. Instead, he proposed replacing the area with a full parking lot to serve abutter Donna’s Donuts, which needs more parking. Three townhouses would be added to create a mixed-use development. Board member Eric Ryder took issue with the classification of parking as an acceptable mixed-use commercial component. Hamor said that the incorporation of Donna’s Donuts was the commercial integration to the mixed use. Johnson said that the board considers each project on a case-by-case basis, but members cautioned the developer that the board may not support the current proposal.

Finally, residents hoping for a return of an eatery at the Maverick’s property will likely be disappointed, as plans were floated for yet another mixed-use project. The board expressed a desire for the office space to have tenants before development.

The next meeting is April 25 at 7 p.m.

Lorna is a 25-year resident of Tewksbury who has written for organizations ranging from the DIA to InformationWeek to a free weekly in New London that sent her to interview the pastry chef at Foxwoods.

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2 Comments

  1. George Ferdinand George Ferdinand April 16, 2022

    Congratulations to James Duffy on your victory and appointment to clerk in your first year. The summary by Steven Sadwick was tremendous! The last sentence,
    “The board expressed a desire for the office space to have tenants before development.” Is my favorite. Elections have consequences and make a difference. I hope the board succeeds, when it does our town does!
    P.S. there was no need to include Todd Johnson’s comment since any PB member would have shared that information.

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