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7 Takeaways from the Jan. 23 Planning Board Meeting

If a tree falls in a lot that has no access road, does it make a sound?

The Planning Board met last night with all members in attendance. No mention was made of Chair Stephen Johnson’s decision to run for a Select Board seat.

Both the 770 Main St. and 118 Lumber Lane proponents requested continuations to the Feb. 13 meeting. The former project is a proposed 10,000 square foot daycare building across from Mexica that, if approved, will replace an existing single-family home and could accommodate 187 children

There were no committee reports. 

Town Planner Alexandra Lowder confirmed that Hanover terminated its agreement with Marc Ginsberg to develop a 40B project at 300 Ames Pond.

“Since this project is no longer coming through, it is of even more importance that we continue to be diligent as a town finding affordable housing opportunities,” said Lowder.

She also shared that the developer of the open space residential subdivision at 920 – 978 Livingston St. has requested the removal of a roadway bond, which is not technically required on a private way. These bonds are meant to ensure the town has the funds to finish a public road should the developer fail to do so.

Lowder recommended that the board remove the bond, but that it add conditions relative to the private road in the subdivision, Farmall Way, including that the HOA agreement include responsibility for finishing the road and that the road be maintained as a private way in perpetuity.

Board member Jonathan Ciampa questioned whether there is a concern about traffic. Lowder replied that it’s a small subdivision, with no abutter concerns. 

The board approved the administrative changes as submitted.

The board tentatively agreed to sign off on an as-built for a new four-home open space subdivision at at 255 Salem St. and Border Rd., pending clarification on a request by James Hanley of Civil Design Consultants that responsibility for the open space be the responsibility of the HOA versus one property owner, as is the current design. The board agreed that this makes sense but tabled final approval until Lowder can report back on why the existing plan assigns the open space to one lot.

They also pushed off an as-built acceptance on a subdivision/open space residential design special permit for 1009 Livingston St. for two weeks while Hanley works with the planner and DPW.

Next, the board heard from Hanley on behalf of property owner Stephen Doherty of Lawrence on a site plan review for 2504 Main St., the former Sal’s Pizza location. 

“We’re proposing a change in use for a building that has an excess of 1,000 square feet,” said Hanley. “So that requires the site plan review.”

For now, he characterized that change of use as from restaurant to generic retail; however, the applicants plan to remodel the existing building into a retail marijuana establishment. Under the plans filed with the board, the building will stay largely the same. There will be updates to the lot striping, sidewalks and landscaping. 

“Keep in mind it’s an existing nonconforming use,” said Hanley, who added that the building will be made ADA compliant. “We’ve also made an attempt to clean up the entrance.”

Hanley said the zoning requirement is 12 parking spaces, but they wish to put in 18 and sacrifice some of the required minimum open space, from 30% of the lot area to 15%. That is not waivable by the Planning Board and would need ZBA approval. 

Lowder stated that even though the structure is nonconforming, for a new use where Planning Board review is required, all provisions of the current bylaw must be met, per the Building Commissioner.

In response to a question by member Vinny Fratalia, Hanley said the expectation should the marijuana business open is five employees, leaving just seven customer spots based on the number of parking spaces required under the zoning bylaw.

“Will seven spots be sufficient to service your clientele or are they going to overflow into one of the neighboring lots and therefore maybe cause some friction?” asked Ciampa, who also called out the lack of a restroom on the first floor in the new plans. 

“I don’t pretend to know what the ADA regulations are as far as customers,” he said. “But if you have an employee that for some reason is not able to get up the stairs, that would prohibit them from being able to work.”

The friction Ciampa referred to is with the business condos that share the lot. In August, attorney Stephen Rodman shed light on why this location has been vacant for several years — a title issue concerning access to Rt. 38 has driven away a number of purchasers.

“There have been many different buyers over the years and they’ve all backed out,” said Rodman, due to the lack of an easement through the lot in front of the 2504 Main St. office condominium. An access easement is now in place based on a 2022 land court judgment.

Johnson suggested that the proponent might “split the difference” on the balance between parking and open space. The matter was continued to Feb. 13.

The saga of Foster Lane rolls on, with Kevin O’Brien from O’Brien Homes asking the board to approve a land disturbance for the lot he owns — despite a disputed right of way on the road that allows access to that lot, Foster Lane. O’Brien’s plan is to clear approximately 63,000 square feet on a 2.3 acre undeveloped, wooded lot.

Foster Lane is a “paper street,” that is, it appears on maps but has not been built.

Attorney David Plunkett took exception to the request, saying that O’Brien has no way to enter the lot in question. Plunkett was followed by resident Jim Andella, who stated that he owns Foster Lane and questioned the issuance of a disturbance permit that would allow O’Brien to take down trees on land to which he does not have access.

“We’re not going to relitigate whatever’s going on in court here,” said Johnson. “This is simply issuing the land disturbance permit. The fact that the land disturbance permit may be ultimately of no use isn’t really for us to decide.”

A motion to approve the permit was approved by a vote of 3 – 1 with member Bob Fowler abstaining and Vinny Fratalia voting no.

In old business, Fratalia asked about the situation with headlights glaring from cars parked at Tree House Brewing’s pickup location and asked Lowder to look into having Tree House install plantings to block the light, especially near the corner of the lot.

Fratalia also asked about the unauthorized removal of a large sycamore tree at 24 Pleasant St. Lowder said counsel for owner John Sullivan — coincidently, Plunkett — is supposed to be reaching out with a remedy, though as Johnson acknowledged, the tree is irreplaceable.

“They need to put something back darn close to what came out,” said Johnson. “If they want to go any further on what they’re doing, they’re gonna have to find some acceptable remedy and not some six foot tree.”

Finally, Duffy informed residents that a new Massachusetts building code rolled out in January. In 2011, Tewksbury adopted what’s called a Stretch Energy Code, that is, an above-code appendix that emphasizes cost-effective construction that is more energy efficient than that built to the minimum requirements. 

“Its adoption, and a lot of other measures, enabled the town to be designated a Green Community by the Department of Energy Resources,” said Duffy. This designation opened up grant funding that to date has totaled over $1 million, plus savings of 20% or more in energy usage over the last 11 years across several municipal buildings and schools.

Residents can find more information on the Green Committee page of the town’s website.

The full meeting is now available on TewksburyTV.

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.

One Comment

  1. Alfred Mancini Alfred Mancini January 24, 2023

    It’s about time someone noticed the tree situation!

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