Press "Enter" to skip to content

10+ Takeaways from the Sept. 11 Planning Board Meeting

Dominos opening location between T-Mobile, Envy Nails; town clears 10% affordable bar thanks to Residence Inn conversion

The Planning Board met last night with all members present. There were no committee reports.

In her report, Town Planner Alex Lowder shared that three public hearings are scheduled for the Sept. 25 meeting, in addition to any continued hearings: a family suite special permit for 30 Northgate Road; a site plan review for additional parking at 836-846 Main St., the former Mirabella’s; and a zoning bylaw amendment for Town Meeting. 

“The Select Board has proposed a change to the zoning maps to include the interstate overlay district capturing 495 at International Place up near Andover Street and over on the west side neighborhood business district on Woburn Street,” said Lowder. The idea, should Town Meeting agree, is to expand where retail cannabis is allowed, opening up locations close to highways. 

The second public feedback session for the MBTA Communities Zoning, and first in-person meeting on the subject, is scheduled for this Wednesday, Sept. 13, from 6 – 7 p.m. at the Tewksbury Public Library. The press release and registration link are posted on the Town website. Registration is not required, but it will add your email to the distribution list for updates.

The public feedback session will have a workshop format where participants will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each site. Residents with questions are welcome to reach out to Lowder.

In business updates, Al Fresca Market held its ribbon cutting on Sept. 6. This is a full-service market with fresh pizza and prepared meals, gelato, a deli counter and seafood. Walden Local Meats also held a ribbon cutting celebrating its one-year anniversary at 1668 Shawsheen St. Walden Local provides frozen storage space for small businesses and sustainably sourced meat via a subscription share service.

Lowder shared a few highlights of events coming up in the next month, including National Night Out on Sunday, the Fall Festival on Sept. 23 and 24, and the Whalemobile at Tewksbury Public Library on Sept. 23. See our new Community Calendar for more listings.

Jim Hanley of Civil Design Consultants and Matt Ginsburg updated the board on work continuing on 325 Marshall St./Terramore Dr. They requested the board’s endorsement to bring acceptance of the street as a public way to voters at the Oct. 3 Special Town Meeting, which is fast approaching. Hanley clarified that the stormwater system would be the responsibility of the HOA.

Acceptance of a street as a public way means snow removal and other services are provided by the town.

Hanley and Arnie Martell also sought a favorable recommendation for Frasier Lane, also for purposes of acceptance at October Special Town Meeting. Hanley called the situation “unique” because the project has been underway for some time, and regulations changed during construction. He expects to have a plan to Lowder and the DPW early next week on how remaining issues will be resolved. 

Both street acceptances were recommended for adoption at STM unanimously.

Hanley then presented a plan for Vale. St., for a four-lot subdivision on 18 acres that will contain three single-family homes, as presented to the Conservation Commission last week. Approval is not required from the Planning Board as the lots will be within R40 zoning requirements.

“What is the status of the rest of the land?” asked member Jim Duffy. Hanley replied that the owner has no intention of building and is considering donating the land for open space/conservation. The plan was endorsed unanimously.

Next up, a sign special permit for 345 Main. St., Wamesit Place. Domino’s Pizza plans to open a second Tewksbury location between T-Mobile and Envy Nails, in the space formerly occupied by Orthodontic Associates. The sign will be sized similarly to other retailers in the plaza.

Member Jonathan Ciampa pointed out that, while uniform, the sign is not inline with current bylaws.

“The question that I’m wrestling with is, do we move towards our new bylaw, which I understand is really hard to do, or is that only going to apply to new businesses or standalone businesses?” said Ciampa. “It’s not an easy question.”

He asked for a rendering showing what the sign would look like if it were in conformance.

“I think it would be unreasonable to ask you to be the only one in the building with a smaller sign,” said Chair Stephen Johnson, citing the board’s discretion to allow for waivers. “You’ve got a shopping center that’s been there for 20 years, and we’ve never heard a complaint about signs.”

The waiver was approved unanimously, without an answer to Ciampa’s larger question. 

The Holt & Bugbee special and land disturbance hearings and the site plan review for 1438 Main St., Tewksbury Dental Associates, were continued to Sept. 25. The Tree House Brewing overflow lot was also continued.

The board then addressed another sign special permit request for 1830 Main St., the Tewksbury Sports Club. The 18-foot, brightly lit, double-faced sign was proposed with a dual-sided, colored electronic message board. There is already a large sign, on the side of the property close to the newly opened gas station, that would be removed. John Peterson of Metro Sign & Awning said the new sign would include only tenants of the main building.

Lowder pointed out that the proposed sign is about four square feet larger than the existing sign. Despite requiring a number of waivers–including to allow for full color rather than the standard amber screen–the permit was approved unanimously.

Kevin Fleming of Cyprus Design and property owner Mark Shea moved closer to approval on their plan to demolish the existing single-family home and barn at 592 Main St., at the intersection of Old Boston Rd., and add a new showroom for Valley Monuments, which provides grave markers and engraving as well as granite landscape products. Fleming said they added signage as requested by the board and addressed comments from the town’s engineering department.

Fleming asked to skip adding a sidewalk on Old Boston Rd., a request that is outside the purview of the Planning Board. The bylaw requires either a sidewalk or a fee in lieu. As pointed out by member Nick Lizotte, the town “needs to start somewhere” to add sidewalks where none exist. The hearing was continued to Sept. 25.

In correspondence, member Jim Duffy read a letter discussing a 4 – 1 decision made at the last meeting to settle a dispute with the DPW on the type of concrete used for about 450 linear feet of sidewalk along East St. In August, Dick Cuoco of Woodland Design and Hanley asked the board to overrule the DPW and allow use of bituminous concrete rather than cement concrete, which is what comprises the sidewalks on Rt. 38, arguing that the latter would cost an additional $30,000. They brought no documentation for that figure, and the DPW was not given an opportunity to explain its reasoning. 

“DPW is currently responsible for the approval and specification of sidewalks in town, and they have the appropriate expertise for sidewalk specs,” said Duffy. While he’s not averse to providing relief if appropriate for small businesses, he said that in future applicants should provide reasonable documentation of cost deltas. 

The rest of the board defended their votes but agreed that, going forward, there should be more detail on the material to be used on site plans as they’re presented.

Member Vinny Fratalia asked Lowder to reach out to several properties. He cited irrigation pipes sticking out of the ground at the Burger King at 85 Main St. and a general lack of maintenance. He also called out the former Discount Madness lot at 1325 Main St.

“There’s debris at the site, there’s overgrown brush at the site,” said Fratalia. “It’s our Main Street, and I think it needs to be maintained.”

He also asked for an update on the townhome development at 2131 Main St., which is proceeding slowly. Lowder said a new contractor has taken over the job and applied for building permits on Friday. Gas lines have been installed, and she expects to receive soon a tentative construction schedule stating when the buildings should be coming online.

Finally, Johnson questioned Lowder about the 2020 census and the town’s position in terms of affordable units. That certification was finally made in July.

“The town was at 8.99%, or short about 121 units,” said Lowder. “The Residence Inn conversion gives us 130, which puts us nine units over.”

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: