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6 Takeaways from the Sept. 12 Planning Board Meeting

The Planning Board met last night, with the main agenda item zoning changes to allow for retail marijuana.

1. Skate park costs rise: Member Vinny Fratalia, who sits on the Community Preservation Committee, reported that the $157,000 approved by Town Meeting for the skate park at Livingston St. would not be sufficient. The CPC is looking to allocate an additional $25,000.

2. Delegation comes through with funding: Community/economic development planner Alexandra Lowder raised the $158,839 in fees that the Planning Board has collected in lieu of developers constructing sidewalks in certain projects. Previously, Lowder recommended allocating money from this fund to fill two sidewalk installation gaps on Main St.

“The board had asked that we go to the delegation for these funds, since it is a part of Route 38,” she said. “In the most recent state budget cycle, the town received $50,000 toward the design and construction of sidewalks for those two sections.”

That’s part of $170,000 in funding for various initiatives. She recommended reaching out to the town engineer to see if other sidewalk projects in town face shortfalls, given that material costs have risen significantly.

3. Wamesit and Wood Haven updates: Lowder reported that Wamesit Lanes is looking to expand its rear parking lot and would come before the Board at its next meeting. There is, however, still an outstanding as-built submission from the 2014 site plan special permit as well as ongoing drainage issues. The town is holding a $20,000 bond related to those matters. 

Member Jonathan Ciampa suggested that if existing bonds are insufficient to incentivize developers to submit their as-builts, that perhaps the amounts collected should increase. 

“It sounds like maybe we need to hold a larger bond,” said Ciampa. “Maybe we need to have that scale with the project.”

Chair Stephen Johnson asked Lowder to investigate what surrounding communities collect, pointing out that we don’t wish to put the town at a disadvantage.

The owners of the former Wood Haven retirement community have submitted a site plan review and special permit to convert the facility to 55-plus congregate residential housing. 

Both requests will be heard at the next meeting.  

4. Two more family suites approved: Residents David and Brian Woolaver requested a family suite special permit for a 1,000-square-foot addition at 61 Briarwood Road. 

Katie McSheehy appeared on behalf of Robert Ramos for a 732-square-foot suite at 51 Regina S Drive. Fratalia brought up the historic flooding in the area, while member Jim Duffy called out the lack of a second egress. 

As usual with family suites, both requests were approved unanimously.

5. Retail marijuana headed for Town Meeting. Assistant town manager Steve Sadwick appeared to address the zoning-related articles on the Oct. 3 Special Town Meeting warrant, relating to retail marijuana. 

“The article is actually a four-step article,” said Sadwick. “A number of different things located throughout the bylaw needed to be adjusted to allow for retail marijuana sales.”

That means residents who wish to vote for or against the changes would need to remain for all four articles.

Tewksbury would be limited to three retail dispensaries, unless the number of retail liquor licenses increases — highly unlikely — and all applicants would need state approval. There will be further discussion at tonight’s Select Board meeting. 

After some conceptual analysis of what happens if Town Meeting splits its vote, the Planning Board unanimously recommended adoption for the articles as presented.

Residents who wish to take part in October Special Town Meeting must be registered to vote by Sept. 23. Here’s more information.

6. Two controversial projects punt. Proponents of a car wash at the former Funland, at 1879 Main St., requested withdrawal without prejudice, or explanation. That development is facing a roadblock because Airport Rd. is a private way, so the company has no by-right ability to set up an “escape lane” for cars that wish to leave the site.

And Rhino Capital Advisers, which is working on a large warehouse at 30 Commerce Way, requested a continuation to the board’s next meeting. Area residents have expressed concern over that project.

Both continuations were approved. With no old or new business or correspondence, the meeting adjourned at 7:51 p.m.

The next Planning Board meeting is scheduled for Sept. 26 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall or on Comcast (99) or Verizon (33). Residents may also watch this and other meetings on the town’s YouTube channel, Tewksbury TV.

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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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