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Don’t Paint It Black? 7 Takeaways from the Nov. 14 Planning Board Meeting

Last night’s Planning Board meeting kicked off with committee reports.

Member Jonathan Ciampa reported on the Elementary School Building Committee meeting held last Thursday. With the project at substantial completion, there were $2.5 million in change orders, a rate of 3.25%. In general, 5% change rate is considered an exceptionally well managed project. Ten percent is common. Given the concern some residents expressed over the recent DPW vote, Ciampa cited the Center Elementary School  as an example of how well town building projects are managed. 

“For a public project that was designed and built throughout the pandemic, massive inflation, supply chain issues, all of that, that we’re coming in under budget with a very low percentage of change orders to the project will hopefully give some confidence to the residents of the town that that we are performing our construction projects with fiscal responsibility and keeping our budgets on track and our schedules on track,” he said.

In her report, Community/Economic Development Planner Alexandra Lowder said the La Vida Dolce bakery is making “substantial progress” on its buildout, but there is no projected opening date. Same for Brelundi, the Italian test kitchen and takeout restaurant going into the former Mirabella’s at 836 Main St. 

Lowder said Starbucks is in the last stretch as well. 

“Building, fire and health went out for inspections last week, and they have a few remaining issues with sewer and water connections that are being worked out,” said Lowder. She will visit the site on Wednesday and expects that the Starbucks will open shortly.

She also said the switch from holding as-built bonds to tying issuance of occupancy permits to final acceptance or substantial as-builts from the engineering and planning departments is on track, with the building commissioner proposing a nuanced approach.

“It’s not going to be a one size fits all, it’s not meant to be punitive” said Lowder. “If they’re getting occupancy in the winter, those kinds of things will be taken into account.” 

After comments from member Vinny Fratalia, Lowder clarified that bonds could be held for any additional as-built requirements, such as landscaping.

Lowder also called out some news about Soldier On, saying that the group has received some additional funding. At the end of the meeting, Johnson added some detail. See related story.

Dick Cuoco of Woodland Design appeared for a homeowner at 40 Longmeadow Rd. who wishes to purchase an adjoining six acre lot and combine the properties. That request was approved unanimously.

Attorney Doug Sears appeared with Liz Cleaves, owner of Auntie Dog Training Studio. Cleaves sought a special permit to board up to five dogs overnight at the company’s new location 1201 Main St. The dogs would be part of a formal training program, not drop offs. Zoning allows for kenneling up to eight dogs. The special permit was approved unanimously.

Cuoco spoke again for Wamesit Lanes, which is seeking to add 44 new paved employee parking spaces and an accessory storage building, along with snow storage. The town engineer is seeking an as built plan and requested some test pits for sewer.  

Vice-Chair Bob Fowler expressed dismay at the dark charcoal color that Tree House Brewing Co. painted the accessory order pickup building. Fowler stated that in a conversation, Marc Ginsburg, who built the Tewksbury Country Club and recently sold it to Tree House, said that the company does plan to paint the main building the same color but has agreed to wait until January, after all remaining functions are wrapped up.

As member Jim Duffy pointed out, it’s unclear whether the Planning Board has any authority to force Tree House to maintain the current light brown natural wood tones. Johnson stated that he would ask Lowder to pull the original permit for the building.

“We may or may not have a little bit of leverage to have a conversation,” said Johnson, who added that it’s going to depend on the original permit and any amendments. Tree House is expected to come before the Board next month with its sign request; both Johnson and Fowler made clear that the matters are unrelated, and the paint color would not affect the Board’s deliberations on signage. In fact, Johnson suggested another venue for the paint discussion, such as a Select Board meeting.

“I’m not sure if we’re the right place for it unless we have a role or possible role to play,” said Johnson. “Then I feel comfortable in saying, ‘You know what, you guys might want to bring this thing in, because the last thing that I want you to do is spend a lot of money on all of this, and then find out you have to come in after the fact.” 

In the site plans presented to the Board for the accessory building, available here, there was no mention of a specific color; Tree House said only that existing shakes and new clapboard would be “painted to match existing structure.”

Editor’s note: The author approves of the dark charcoal. The copper flashing really pops. Share your thoughts below.

Finally, Johnson notified members of a second meeting for a retail marijuana dispensary at 1693 Shawsheen St. — just down the road from Luna Rossa plaza — proposed by Community Care Collective dba Collective Cannabis. This would be the company’s third Massachusetts location, in addition to shops in Billerica and Littleton. The meeting will be Nov. 29 at 6 p.m. at Holiday Inn.

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.


  1. George Ferdinand George Ferdinand November 15, 2022

    Really? Now regulate the color of structures. No wonder why business takes a second look at our town or by this, they sure will.

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