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Tree House Presents Plan for Signage, Exterior Design of TCC

The Planning Board met last night without member Jim Duffy.

In her update, community/economic development planner Alexandra Lowder brought up the concept of modifying the town bylaw to allow for the conversion of commercial units — including those in the mixed use developments dotting Main St. — to residential units by special permit, on the condition that the units be maintained as affordable in perpetuity. 

The idea is to generate additional affordable housing, fill vacancies and get some of these properties back on the tax rolls. 

“I think this could be a win-win-win,” said Lowder, who added that these units are generally between 600 and 2,000 square feet, and that any conversion would require a review.

The board agreed in concept to consider a warrant article for May or October Town Meeting. Expect to hear more about this idea.

Lowder also asks residents to take the survey presented by the Northern Middlesex Council of Governments (NMCOG) as part of its Envision 2050 Long-Range Regional Transportation Plan, which seeks to involve the public in identifying transportation use and needs in our region.

Tree House bats 17 for 18 on signage. The main matter before the Board was a series of new signs and flags for Tree House Brewing Co. Joe Vecchione of Bergmeyer Associates appeared with Sarah Maggi Morin, chief of staff for Tree House Brewing, to present the plan, downloadable here.

The primary sign on Main St. will remain similar to the existing sign, though Tree House will remove the electronic message board. 

The company’s most dramatic request was a large arch spanning the driveway off of Livingston St. Such pole signs are allowed to be 20 feet; the company proposed 17 feet. Tree House has removed the low brick wall that previously marked the entrance and is looking to make directions clearer for customers unfamiliar with the location.

“I understand what you’re trying to do, to get people into the site,” said member Vinny Fratalia. “I just don’t think that big of a sign belongs there. I think it infringes on the neighbors who live there year-round.”

Fratalia pointed out the proximity of the Eagle’s Landing over-55 housing development and added that he spoke with some residents who said they had not received notices of the hearing. Chair Stephen Johnson stated that it’s town staff’s job to send out abutter notices, and that the board takes the town planner’s word that the letters were mailed.

“Once the office confirms that it’s done, that’s the end of it,” said Johnson.

Other board members shared Fratalia’s dislike of the proposed Livingston St. entrance sign.

“This to me is more Disney World, Jurassic Park, not small-town brewery,” said member Jonathan Ciampa. “I would love to see something that’s a little more scaled down, a little more neighbor friendly.”

Overall, however, members — including vice-chair Bob Fowler, who previously expressed displeasure with the color change for the buildings — were positive on the concept. 

Vecchione assured the board that the goal is to be tasteful, giant stairway beer can sculptures notwithstanding, and to “not over-brand” the site.

In the residents portion, George Taylor of 24 Eagle Dr. called out the crowded pickup area this past weekend.

“They have no problem finding the driveway,” said Taylor. His main concern is lighting. Lowder reiterated that lights must be off overnight unless the brewery is open. 

Dick Cuoco of 18 Emerald Court questioned whether there will be signage for the golf course.

“The fact that there is nothing saying ‘golf course’ suggests to me that you’re downplaying the course,” said Johnson. “If that’s intentional, fine. Just say it.”

Maggi Morin said decisions are still being made about how the facilities will be used but said they’d look at adding information on the course to signage.

Four votes are needed to grant a special permit, and because Duffy was absent and Fratalia signaled that he would vote no on the Livingston entrance sign, Vecchione asked the board to approve the plan as submitted for all signs except for the one in question. They agreed to remove the arch and erect a single pillar sign, not to exceed 12 feet in height, with “some sort of decorative capping.”

That request was approved unanimously.

Wamesit parking lot approved. Next up, Dick Cuoco and an associate from Cuoco & Cormier appeared for Wamesit Lanes, which is seeking to finalize plans for 44 employee parking spaces at the rear of the property. The DPW requested that the entrance to the lot be widened from 20 to 24 feet; however, that would encroach on wetlands and require moving a “substantial” retaining wall. Cuoco asked that the board provide a variance for a 20-foot entrance, among other requests.

After some discussion, all waivers were approved unanimously, with the caveat that a bike rack be added.

In new business, Fratalia brought up heavy traffic entering Tree House Brewing the week before Thanksgiving, and whether a police detail may be needed during peak times given the difficulty of getting out onto Livingston St. toward Main. He also cited an unsafe situation with headlights of vehicles waiting to pick up orders shining directly into cars waiting at the light. Lowder will suggest that Tree House workers directing cars ask that headlights be turned off while parked.

Johnson asked Lowder to check in with Wal-Mart about turning parking spots into pickup spaces in an area where the board directed them not to in 2019. 

Finally, Johnson informed the board of a public meeting in December at TCC for Carnation Cannabis — no affiliation with this publication, and no published legal notice yet.  

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. […] Tree House officially opened for pours in the tavern building on Saturday. The tent will be up and running shortly, after some final permitting, and team members said to expect special beers on tap. There is construction fencing around the Country Club building in preparation for some significant design transformations. […]

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