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10 Takeaways from the Nov. 13 Planning Board Meeting

A car wash is proposed at Tewksbury Florist & Greenery; new North Tewksbury cannabis application in the works 

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

Hearings for the 911-913 East St. self-storage development; 1879 Main St., Tree House overflow lot; 1438 Main St., Tewksbury Dental; and 1600 Shawsheen St., Holt & Bugbee, were continued to Nov. 27.

In her Town Planner’s report, Community/Economic Development Planner Alexandra Lowder advised the board of two new public hearings also scheduled for Nov. 27. They include a family suite review for 50 Vale St. and a new car wash proposed for 402 Main St., site of Tewksbury Florist & Greenery. That business has been on the market since October 2022.

“My understanding is that the property owners are under agreement with the proposed owners of the car wash, and I imagined that the sale is likely contingent upon them receiving permits for this project,” said Lowder.

The Tres Amigos Bar and Grill officially opened for business last week at Heath Brook Plaza, 1777 Main St., next to Aubuchon Hardware.

Lowder reported that a path forward for completion of the historic home at 17 Lee St. has been established between the owner, Robert Scarano, and the town after a walkthrough on Nov. 9.

Under community events, the Annual Tree Lighting will take place on Friday, Dec. 1 from 5 to 7 p.m. on the Town Common. The town is partnering with Tewksbury Congregational Church for Santa photos. Attendees can spend some time on the common singing carols, taking selfies with the Wilmington/Tewksbury Chamber of Commerce sponsored ice sculpture and much more before going across the street to meet with Santa and enjoy the TCC’s annual pie social.

The board set its 2024 meeting dates, then moved into several administrative matters for Andover St. 

Jonathan Miller of The Daly Group said the company has a potential retail cannabis tenant for 1625 Andover St., between Wendy’s and Aroma Joe’s, and asked for a one-year extension on the permit. Back in 2019, Matt Hamor and Miller appeared to propose a restaurant at the site. That project is now off the table, said Miller. The extension, which was approved unanimously, will enable them to come back with “a slight modification to the plan.”

The town’s first cannabis applicant, Sundaze, will also resubmit its proposal for a dispensary  at 2504 Main St., the former Sal’s Pizza, after being unanimously rejected in the first round of license hearings. The town has one cannabis license remaining. 

Allison Kalman appeared for the Lowell Five bank, which leases two drive-up ATMs at 1603 Andover St. Kalman asked for modification to remove a pedestrian connection requirement from the ATM to the main bank location. That was approved unanimously

Developer Michael Saccone is looking to convert a commercial unit at 935 Main St., the new development across from the Police Station, to an affordable, 100% handicap accessible residential unit, as allowed under a bylaw amendment passed at Town meeting. A special permit is needed.

“Having four affordable units there will be great,” said vice-chair Vinny Fratalia, who questioned why the unit lottery is being held by the Chelmsford Housing Authority versus the Tewksbury HA. No answer was forthcoming, but the board welcomed the fourth affordable unit.

“It looks like an absolute win,” said member Jonathan Ciampa. Saccone expects to have tenants shortly after he gets occupancy permits. That request was approved unanimously.

The MacLellan Oil development has a few changes. Attorney Don Borenstein and Meera Cousens appeared for the proposed residential apartment building at 1167, 1177, 1187 Main St., in the new Town Center district. The proponents need site plan approval, a special permit for a multifamily development and approval for a major land disturbance. 

Based on construction costs, said Cousens, the density will be reduced from 30 units to 24 with 62 parking spaces; four units will be affordable, and there will be six EV spaces, all outside due to fire concerns. It will be a four-level building with a heated and vented garage at street grade and three floors of housing. The top floor will contain four units — two of them with two bedrooms and semi-private outdoor space — and a roof deck for common use.

Cousens asked for a waiver for some “dead end” parking spaces in the exterior lot. Ciampa asked about a lighting plan and pointed out that the goal of the Town Center zoning is to create a walkable area between Town Hall and the Library. The sidewalks will be concrete. 

“How close is the building to the oil tanks in the rear?” asked Fratalia. 

The building will be about 100 feet from the tanks and 19.8 feet from the street, just under the 20-foot maximum. Outdoor parking will be in the rear. Chair Stephen Johnson pointed out that the look of the balconies in the front of the building will depend on unit residents maintaining the plantings.

Interestingly, the project architect, John Sullivan of Gavin & Sullivan, said many municipalities are outlawing EV parking in enclosed parking garages.

“It is a challenge right now,” said Sullivan.

Finally, at the last meeting, Michael Columba expressed frustration with the pace of approvals for the Brelundi Italian food outlet at 836 and 846 Main St., the former Mirabella’s. At that time, Ciampa asked Lowder to facilitate a discussion between Columba’s team and the town engineer. 

Columba appeared with civil engineer Stephen Dresser of Dresser, Williams and Way, who said they are now “on the same page” as the engineering department based on conversations. Dresser ran down a laundry list of conditions and comments, largely around stormwater management, impervious surface and sidewalks on Old Boston Rd., and asked the board to grant conditional approval. 

“They apparently have an unwritten policy that they have to witness those [stormwater] test pits,” said Dresser. While he maintained that they are in agreement with the engineering department, the board was hesitant to grant approval given the number of outstanding issues. 

Dresser countered that new comments are continually added.

“I’d ask you to look at the fairness of that process,” he said. 

Ciampa pushed back that the town engineer’s goal is to eliminate “gray areas” and look out for the best interests of the town.

“I think what the engineering department is doing is, they’re pushing you hard for a clear set of documents that demonstrates that this entire project will be built to all of the standards,” he said. “It covers the town. It covers the integrity of our stormwater system, it covers the integrity of your site.”

While the board commiserated with the applicant, it did not provide conditional approval, so Columba and Dresser will be back on Nov. 27.

“We would love to see you finish that project and get it open,” said member Jim Duffy, but not at the expense of making sure all conditions are fulfilled. “I don’t believe anybody on the board is going to undermine the job of the engineering department; their job is to look out for what’s best for the town, what’s best for the town people, the residents.”

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.

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