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Planning Board Sees Red Over Proposed Greenhouse

At last night’s Planning Board meeting, town planner Alex Lowder reported that the new Zoning Bylaw is in effect as of May 4 and invited any resident or business with questions about what is now allowed to contact her.

Lowder also welcomed Tree House Brewing to Tewksbury.

“I’m sure everybody here and at home has heard that Tree House Brewing has made their intention known to purchase the Tewksbury Country Club from the Ginsbergs,” she said. “I’m really excited to have a great organization choose Tewksbury. This is a company with a really good reputation. Everywhere they go they do a lot of nice work, and I’m looking forward to working with them.”

Consultant Matt Hamor, representing the proposed high-tech greenhouse at 60 Highland View Rd., received a less enthusiastic welcome.

The proposal, which has been before the Board since January, is on behalf of Zordi, a company that builds modular greenhouses operated by intelligent robotics systems. The Tewksbury location is expected to produce some 25,000 pounds of berries annually.

“We’re running into a time constraint with the folks who want to come in here and build the building on the site,” said Hamor. “We’re hoping to get a conditional approval so that the appeal periods can start to take their course while the folks that are designing this building for the facility can continue doing what they’re doing.”

Board vice-chair Bob Fowler shot down that request and called out Hamor for installation of a drainage and catch-basin system at the site last summer, well before the project was presented to the Board and without the required permits or inspections.

“Let’s start off by saying I like this proposal very much — I like the idea of what they want to do down there,” said Fowler. “What I’m concerned about is how we got here.”

Fowler asked Hamor whether he notified the Board that the drainage system was in place when he submitted the plans in January. Hamor responded that he had.

“Well, I’m going to have to review the minutes, because that’s news to us,” said Fowler.

Board members Eric Ryder and Vincent Fratalia agreed, with neither recalling seeing a plan with drainage.

“I’m willing to bet, and I’m pretty savvy on the plans, that that system was never mentioned to us once,” said Fratalia. “If that was brought to us back then, we would have had it resolved by now.”

The system, per town engineer Kevin Hardiman, will need to be removed and reinstalled with proper inspections and permits.

Chair Stephen Johnson added that the Board does not intend to grant conditional approvals except in very rare cases.

The project was continued until the Board’s next meeting on May 23.

Next, the Board reviewed the plan for a group home for disabled individuals at 85 French St. The addition of storage, a drainage basin and erosion control satisfied the DPW’s stormwater management requirements. The Board unanimously approved the land disturbance permit.

Finally, Fratalia reminded residents that the Letter Carrier Food Drive is this Saturday, May 14.

Watch for yellow plastic bags to be delivered with your mail this week. Residents who are able to donate should put non-perishable and non-expired food items in these bags (or any other bags you have) and put them out by your mailbox on Saturday morning for pick up by your letter carrier. Toiletries and personal hygiene items are accepted as well.

Lowder recommended individually wrapped items, such as granola bars, given that many patrons of the pantry are single individuals and seniors.

“Consider giving them good food rather than just food that you want to get rid of,” said Fratalia. “Nationwide, [the letter carriers] collect a lot of food — it’s the biggest single food drive in the country. So just please contribute.”

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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