Press "Enter" to skip to content

10 Takeaways from the April 24 Planning Board Meeting

Daycare proposal withdrawn, while three more retail cannabis applicants pass muster and move on to the Select Board

The Planning Board met Monday night with all members in attendance. There were no committee reports.

In her Town Planner’s report, Alex Lowder said she will present the town’s 2023-2027 Housing Production Plan at the May 8 Planning Board meeting and repeat that preso at the May 16 Select Board meeting. Endorsements from both boards are required before the plan is submitted to the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) for certification.

The plan will outline Tewksbury’s housing goals and strategies for the next five years and highlight major themes and action items. Input from boards will be incorporated before the plan is submitted.

Separate from the Housing Production Plan, Lowder is also working on a proposed zoning district that complies with the MBTA Communities legislation. She plans public outreach sessions beginning in late spring/early summer with the goal of having a compliant district to present to DHCD this fall, in preparation for Town Meeting in May 2024.

Finally, kitchen plans have been approved for the 2254 Main St. location, which is soon to be “The Pull Up” Latin soul food restaurant.

“The new operators are working diligently to get building permits in place to do a full renovation of the space,” she said.

Watch the full meeting.

Next up, street acceptances for Grammys Way and Border Rd. 

Jim Hanley of Civil Design Consultants said the DPW wants confirmation that street trees were planted in accordance with bylaws and the plans that were filed for Grammys Way.

“In the past, essentially, there was some latitude provided to developers to be able to adjust the final location of some of these trees, as conditions warrant in the field,” said Hanley.

Board members pointed out that there are about 13 trees missing from the approved right of way plan. Hanley replied that the number of trees promised have been planted, but many are not in the locations indicated because situating trees on top of underground utilities is problematic.

Chair Stephen Johnson called out Hanley for waiting until just before Town Meeting, when the street is scheduled to be accepted by the town, to bring up the issue.

“Last minute, always last minute with the street acceptances,” said Johnson. “We’re trying to jump through hoops so that … the petitioner doesn’t get pushed off another six months.”

The waiver passed by a 3 – 2 vote, with members Jonathan Ciampa and Nicholas Lizotte voting no.

The board also passed a tree waiver for Border Rd., this time unanimously. On Monday, Town Meeting will vote on whether to accept both streets as public ways.

Next, committee assignments. Johnson reappointed all members to their current committees. Ciampa serves on the Elementary School Building Committee, Vinny Fratalia sits on the Community Preservation Committee, and Jim Duffy is on the Green Committee. 

The lot at 1600 Shawsheen St. will be split and a new 80,000 sf warehouse constructed. Approval is not required; there will be more detailed plans at a future meeting.

John Peterson of Metro Sign and Awning appeared seeking a special permit for an electronic message sign at the Tewksbury Youth Baseball fields at East St. The sign will be sponsored by Wamesit Lanes and will display information on youth baseball. The hearing was continued to May 8.

Butler School LLC asked to withdraw without prejudice its application to build a daycare at 770 Main St., across from Mexica. The facility as originally envisioned would have replaced an existing single-family home and accommodated more than 187 children but faced pushback about the size of the building, number of parking spaces, proximity of parking to the property lines and safety of families entering and leaving the facility. There was no indication of what will happen with the lot.

Brian Geaudreau of Hancock Associates and David Giametta of Collective Premium Cannabis appeared for the proposed dispensary at 1693 Shawsheen St. That location is currently a contractor yard run by MDR Construction, and a large portion of the lot and building would remain with that usage. Collective, which has two existing locations, plans to rent several bays in the building with a 10-year lease and two five-year options.

In response to board comments, Geaudreau said Collective has eliminated the electronic message board sign and added concrete sidewalks that conform to DPW guidelines. The waiver request before the board is now only for a reduced setback to the right of way. 

Fratalia pointed out that should the Select Board change the allowed hours of operation, that new traffic studies would be required; that’s true for all the dispensaries. He approved of the elimination of the message board. The waiver was approved as requested, and the site plan was also approved pending DPW review.

Next up, 2122 Main St., aka Donut Village. Attorney Valerio Romano of VGR Law Firm and design engineer Ian Ainslie of Meisner Brem asked the board to conditionally approve the site plan for a proposed The Stories Company dispensary adjacent to Donna’s Donuts. They are not asking for any waivers, and the building will be new construction.

The plan is for a 5,400 square foot building, with half of that the dispensary and the remaining 2,700 square feet for a future retail, office or restaurant use. There is no housing component. The Stories Company has a P&S agreement for the property. 

“I’ve talked to Andrew Stack, the town engineer, and I think I have a pretty good understanding of what they’re looking for,” said Ainslie. “There’s nothing in here that I feel won’t be resolved imminently.”

The site plan review and land disturbance were both approved, pending sign-off from the Fire Department on turn radius.

Next up, 553 Main St., unit 2, an 8,700 square foot dispensary between Job Lots and Papa Ginos. The proponents own Lazy River Products, based in Dracut, and have been in the cannabis business since legalization. The existing 40,000 square foot facility in Dracut features cultivation, lab and kitchen facilities and a retail operation.

Lazy River Products CEO William Cassotis asked for a sign waiver to accommodate the name of the company (see rendering above). Cassotis also reiterated his request for an electronic message sign, a sticking point for the board.

“We’ve got active billboards and signage on major highways, on Route 93,” he said. “We have to follow the CCC’s requirements on what’s allowed, and they have very tight requirements.”

He added that advertising is key for the business.

“We have a brand that we’re trying to build here,” he said. “So with that, brand reinforcement is big, and any opportunity for us to do that is huge. Whether it be an electronic message board, a sign or social media or whatnot.”

Johnson pointed out that only one business in a plaza having a message board is “an oddity” and may open the board to requests from other tenants for electronic signage. Cassotis read the room and withdrew his request. The board then approved the storefront sign waiver and site plan review unanimously.

The next meeting of the Planning Board will be May 8, where we can expect to hear from two additional dispensary applicants, for 1 Main St. and 1699 Shawsheen St. Applicants have until 4:30 p.m. on May 11 to get on the Select Board agenda for the first round of license consideration. 

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.

Be First to Comment

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: