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7+ Takeaways From the June 27 Planning Board Meeting

The Tewksbury Planning Board met last night at Town Hall, without member Eric Ryder. Here are highlights.

Green vehicle dealer moving into Nissan location. Community/economic development planner Alexandra Lowder reported that Sena Auto will add a service location at 2532 Main St., next to Hobarts, while Eco Auto plans to open a green and electric vehicle dealership at 623 Main St., the former Nissan dealership site. Both of these projects represent reuse and revitalization of existing buildings.

Lowder also reported that 2131 Main St., an unkempt vacant lot across from Boudreau’s that’s been slated for 15 residential and three commercial townhouses since 2019, is finally moving forward. 

“The owners have started submitting plans to the fire department and the building department,” she said. “They posted their bond related to the special permit issued by this board, and the owner’s contractor is going to be submitting the complete building permit application in the next coming weeks.”

A car wash across from Tree House? If you thought that the announcement of Tree House Brewing taking over Tewksbury Country Club would spur the owners of the former Funland to come up with a more creative use of that property, you’d be mistaken. Lowder says plans to put a car wash in what will likely soon be one of the most congested areas of town remain on track, based on the owners “freezing” the use under the old zoning bylaw. It would not be allowed under the new bylaw.

The petitioners will appear in front of the Zoning Board of Appeals for a special permit hearing this Thursday, June 30 at 6:30 p.m. If that permit is granted, the applicants are on the Planning Board’s July 18 agenda for a site plan review.

Lowder also reported that the Starbucks build is proceeding, and that Auntie Dog plans an expanded training area.

Donna’s will keep its leased lot for now. The mixed-use site at 2122 Main St., tentatively named “Donut Village,” was granted an extension in April after receiving some negative feedback from Ryder at an earlier meeting. He took issue with the classification of a parking lot as an acceptable commercial component, but town counsel weighed in that a lot for Donna’s customers could in fact be considered a commercial use. Currently, Donna’s leases the lot for overflow parking.

However, don’t expect building soon: The petitioners were granted a 12-month extension to present a proposal, with a warning that they’re unlikely to receive a further delay.

Proposed 87,000 s.f. “industrial flex” building raises questions around truck traffic. New construction proposed for 30 Commerce Way, adjacent to an existing building, will have six loading docks and approximately 60 employees. The overall property is about 12 acres, zoned industrial. There are no tenants as of yet; the company is building on spec.

A sticking point is that there are wetlands on the site. The proponent stated that they will stay outside of the 25-foot no-disturbance limit, and they expect to replicate at a two-to-one ratio the wetlands that will be disturbed with an access drive. 

Board members complimented the completeness of the plan; Vinny Fratalia questioned whether the roofs could accommodate solar and commented on the loading dock areas being situated a good distance from residential abutters.

“The million dollar questions on the road will be the hours of operation of the tenant,” said member Jim Duffy. “So that’s a little bit of a wild card today.”

Several residents raised concerns about traffic and whether notice of the hearing was provided to abutters. Lowder clarified that a mailing went out to residents 300 feet from the property line.

“When the school bus comes and the trucks come, it’s very dangerous,” said Josephine Connor of 220 Old Main St. “And the neighbors, if they’re walking down the street, walking their dog or walking their children, they’re thrown off the side of the road because of the traffic. There’s no place for them to walk anymore. That’s gone now.”

Board member Bob Fowler requested that the applicants check the timing on the lights in the area.

The project was continued to the July 18 meeting.

Crowded townhouse, commercial proposals for French’s lot. Meera Cousens of Civil Design Consultants presented two concept plans for a 30,000 s.f. commercially zoned property at 821 Main St.

“You may remember back in March, we submitted a preliminary subdivision application that allowed us to freeze the previous zoning,” said Cousens.

She presented two options to the board. One has eight units and complies with the requirements of the (now nonexistent) Village Residential Overlay district and will not require any waivers. It provides commercial space on the first floor and six residential units on the second and third floors. One unit will be affordable.

Concept plan two proposes two buildings, one with commercial space on the first floor with six residential units above. Building two will have nine residential units over three floors. Two of the 15 residential units would be affordable. This layout would require waivers for a reduction to the minimum front yard setback and for a reduction to the minimum parking requirement — 39 spaces are required, but the plan offers only 28. 

The board was split in regard to their preferred concept but united in saying that parking is insufficient.

“There are way too many units,” said Duffy. “Six or seven would be allowed under today’s zoning, and you’re looking at 15. You’re trying to pack too much in.”

Board chair Stephen Johnson agreed. 

“Things have changed,” said Johnson. “I know you froze zoning, so you have the right to ask for it. But I think you know things have changed and what we’re willing to allow, I think, has followed suit.”

Lowder added a concern about renting the commercial units in concept one.

“The commercial space is only 792 square feet, and that seems to be the type of commercial space that goes unoccupied on Main St.” she said. 

Tree House asked to make further updates: Finally, Tree House Brewing submitted an updated rendering for its drive-up order pickup location that was unveiled at the June 13 meeting. The Board is still interested in seeing a new roof line to hide the cooling units.

“A gabled roof on it would look a lot more appealing,” said Duffy. “It will be more inline with the rest of the buildings.”

The Board will reconvene on July 18.

Lorna is a U.S. Army veteran and 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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