Park Central public hearings likely to take several months – traffic hearing opens April 23

by beth on March 27, 2014

Post image for Park Central public hearings likely to take several months – traffic hearing opens April 23

Above: The public hearing on Park Central drew a crowd to hear about and comment on what one resident characterized as “the most invasive project that has probably ever been done in this town.”

Last night, the Zoning Board of Appeals opened their public hearings on the proposed Park Central 40B project. The hearing room was standing room only as members from surrounding neighborhoods came to voice their concerns.

ZBA’s meeting was their first to be recorded by Southborough Access Media.  (You can click here to view the streaming content.) Going forward, SAM hopes to broadcast ZBA meetings live when possible.

The hearing opened with an explanation by the town’s consultant of the permitting process. He made it clear that the permit denials or neighbor appeals are rarely successfully upheld.

Cases where the state has upheld a permit denial are related to safety. While traffic safety is sometimes considered, he said the volume of traffic isn’t.

ZBA Chair Leo Bartolini informed the crowd that he understood that traffic from the project is the most critical issue for residents. He announced that the ZBA will, for the first time, hire a peer review consultant to look at the applicant’s traffic plans. (The consultant is picked by the board, but fees are paid by the applicant.) The board also plans to contract an engineering peer review down the road.

Several residents complained that a peer review would be insufficient, as they believed the original plan didn’t study the right information.

Bartolini responded that determining that is part of the peer review’s scope. A reviewer won’t do original work, but will inform the town if the applicant hasn’t provide enough data for an effective review. He insisted that the board needs to follow a process. He expects traffic hearings alone to take place every two weeks for multiple months.

Hearings focused on traffic impacts will open on April 23, at 8:30 pm, in the Town House hearing room. At that meeting, the applicant’s traffic consultant will present their plan. The town’s police and fire departments will make their comments. And residents will have the chance to comment and ask questions.

Answering questions from residents, developer Bill Depietri revealed his potential plans for the remainder of the property. They included industrial buildings, assisted living and possibly another small residential building if the town is still under the 10% for affordable housing projects.

That 10% was already a point of contention among commenters. Some residents expressed concerns about how many other 40B projects could be forced through, since the project would still leave the town short of reaching Mass Housing’s threshold.

According to the town’s consultant, Southborough will still be 13 units short of the 10% of affordable housing units if Park Central is approved. 

The ZBA put that number lower, at 8-9. Their figure includes the four units currently approved for Stonebrook Village. However, Depietri is in process of trying to change that from 40B housing to 55+ housing.*

Bartolini asked if Depietri would consider changing the Park Central plan to rental properties, thereby turning all units to 40B. By his calculation that would put Southborough over the 10% through 2030, allowing the town to only allow 40Bs on their terms. He posited that with small 40Bs approved in future years, Southborough could remain above the 10% in perpetuity.

Depietri responded that the plan was developed as for sale and presented to Mass Housing as such. A change that significant would require going back to Mass Housing. It would also require major changes to his plans. He didn’t refuse to consider, but was not inclined to do so.

Planning Board member Paul Cimino asked Depietri to consider simply upping the number of affordable units to bring Southborough to 10%. Depietri didn’t comment.

Responding to more comments about the traffic plan, Bartolini pointed out that some of the plans are in response to Mass Department of Transportation’s announced plans for changes to Route 9. He told the crowd he’s very unhappy with Mass DOT’s design and hopes he and other town officials can meet with the department to influence a change.

[Editor’s note: I can’t find the DOT’s current versions of the plan. But I do have images from their study that I covered in September (click here) and a January announcement by DOT of their plans to move forward on the project (click here).]

Former Selectman David Parry insisted that the town and Depietri should form a joint task force and a “very highly skilled team of traffic engineers” to come up with a route 9 solution to both Park Central access and traffic issues for the Fayville community posed by the DOT plan.

Parry pitched to Depietri that the increased value for his land, which could be “worth a fortune”, should compel him to “ditch this plan” and support his idea. Again, Depietri didn’t comment.

The ZBA asked that residents who want to be alerted on developments between meetings provide the board’s secretary with 1-2 contacts who will be responsible for an email chain to others.

*A permit allowing Stonebrook Village to change their plans to 55+ housing was previously granted by the ZBA. It has been appealed by neighbors and is still pending litigation.

Toward the end of last night’s meeting, the ZBA granted an extension on the Stonebrook 40B permit. Depietri requested the extension so that he can pursue the 40B project if the appeal of the 55+ project is upheld by the court.

1 Deleted March 27, 2014 at 3:17 PM

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2 beth March 27, 2014 at 3:53 PM

1. I object to your implication that I was trying to make Mr. Parry out to be a troublemaker. I had no intention of doing that. I try to offer as neutral a view as possible and not “paint” anyone as anything.

2. Which moment was “the highlight” I’m sure is up to the observer. It was a long meeting with a lot said. I couldn’t quote everyone and take note of everything brought up. I simply did my best to summarize for those who missed it.

3. I happen to disagree that Parry’s main point was unsafe Route 9 access. He had several points, but I took the main one to be that because of the current plan layout, Park Central residents would be inclined to drive through abutting neighborhoods causing problems there and on Flagg Road. He was seeking an access alternative that would make Route 9 not only safer, but more desirable to development residents than the existing back roads.

4. This is My Southborough – not The Southborough News. The Southborough News still has a facebook page of it’s own, and I’m sure that the editor (Linda Hubley) wouldn’t want you to confuse that facebook page with this blog and its facebook page.

3 beth March 27, 2014 at 6:11 PM

Thank you for clarifying.

I think you would find that if you ask him, that he would tell you that he emphatically believes his solution is the right course and absolutely critical. (I’d hazard a guess that all of those words were used.) That is what I meant to convey. I’m not trying to convey that he was bullying them – but that he is passionate in his belief that this needs to happen.

4 Deleted March 27, 2014 at 5:39 PM

Comment removed for apparent violation of comment policies:
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5 Deleted March 27, 2014 at 6:38 PM

Comment removed for apparent violation of comment policies:
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– Be real. When you submit a comment, you must enter a working email address. Your email address will not be published on the site, but for administrative purposes, it must be valid.

6 beth March 27, 2014 at 11:40 PM

I hope my second reply didn’t come of angry. (I’ll admit, in my first reply I was a bit irked at accusation.) I wasn’t trying to argue with you – but simply explain my intention.

7 Donna McDaniel March 28, 2014 at 12:05 AM

There is another source of news in town — the Villager. When these plans came up months ago, I wrote several columns about both Madison Place and Park Central that focus on three major points: 1) traffic (and traffic and traffic!), 2) concerns about the isolation of a large number of residents as close to Westboro and all its shopping as they are to our town (and yet could be a force if they wanted something at a Town Meeting), and 3) noting the absence of any significant mention of Southborough, our government, services, sports and recreation, schools, etc., in the advertising on the website of Madison Place. Our chief advantages, the last time I looked at the Madison Place site, are proximity to Wegman’s and Natick Collection, plus easy access to Boston (?!)… I don’t know if the library saves past Villagers… I’d have to check the dates of the columns (on an older computer) … I’ll put more info in a comment in the next couple of days and may even post a couple if I hear any sounds of interest.

8 try looking March 29, 2014 at 1:24 AM

I pity those poor folks living in those dead-end subdivision roads, off Flagg Rd, thinking they were safe from traffic. and along Flagg rd itself, with all those lovely trees, and no space for a sidewalk, and deefoot near the school.

You are going to see a huge reduction in property values in that neighborhood.

I am surprised the entire neighborhood has not banded together to hire a skillful lawyer, expert in one thing only — delaying projects. You kill by delay .

It is really a shame this has happened. Shame of you know who.

9 Deleted March 29, 2014 at 4:27 PM

Comment removed for apparent violation of comment policies:
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10 JoJo March 30, 2014 at 5:35 PM

Mr. Bartolini should step down. He has a conflict of interest and obviously forgets that he is supposed to work in the best interest of the taxpayers. He is in Mr. Dipetri’s pocket and is going to open the town up to liability. He is also a bully and does not allow anyone else to have an opinion on the board. Also the town attorney has a conflict and this project should have a skilled 40b lawyer hired by the town it is that important. The overall project also has no solution to keep only residential traffic from coming through the neighborhood which is not allowed.
There are so many issues with the project that the town needs to tell the state that the access goes to rt 9 and if they don’t like it then the project needs to be denied based on safety concerns.

11 David Parry April 3, 2014 at 9:36 PM

As I stated at the ZBA hearing, this is a project that is exceedingly and unnecessarily harmful to many.

The connection of an industrial site to local residential subdivision roads is very disrespectful, and it is against one of the key elements of the Town Master Plan. The fact that these roads were once (many years ago) intended to continue into the industrial-zoned site is irrelevant, because that was before 495 was built.

The connection of the proposed, new site drive, behind the Red Roof Inn, leading to Flagg Rd, is intended to force cars (exiting from the industrial site), to be able to head south only, toward Rte 9, and then continue onto Rte 9 westbound. This site drive exit onto Flagg Rd is unworkable and unenforceable. Cars will avoid the physical barriers and make sharp turns, or U turns, to head north up Flagg Rd. No signs are going to prevent this, and no police officer is going to stand there all day policing this artificial movement.. Because that is exactly what it is — artificial.

This project is harmful to:
1. The direct abutters (who will lose significant property values).
2. The existing residents nearby (who will suffer increased traffic).
3. The neighborhood all the way to Deefoot (which may lose its magnificent trees for the sake of sidewalks to a school).
4. The whole north end of town (which will receive unnecessary, additional traffic passing all the way through town center).
5., To Rte 9 itself (which will suffer from more traffic leaving Flagg Rd, heading west but wanting to head east, and which will therefore be forced to do circles on the 495-9 ramps to return east on Rte 9 — which is NOT the purpose of the interchange and is a very dangerous move).
6. Last — but by no means least — this project is going to be exceedingly damaging to the developer’s reputation (which will go down the tubes).

Just because this may be allowed by State Ch 40B rules does NOT mean that it is justified. (Ch 40B allows an affordable housing development to ignore local zoning, and therefore affordable housing can be built in an industrial site where it would NOT normally be allowed). This project is NOT justified, because we can find other sites for the remaining portion of affordable housing which Southborough needs, in order to reach its 10% minimum, when Ch 40 B will no longer apply. We need just 58 affordable units. That is all.

I say again, the application should be withdrawn, and the site should be used solely as industrial use, as intended by zoning. That is what Southborough needs for its tax base.

Once the application has been withdrawn, then the town should form a partnership with the developer to seek a new solution — so that traffic can exit the site, somewhere near Flagg Rd, and head west, BUT ALSO CUT ACROSS RT 9 AND HEAD EAST…..so that all cars from Flagg Rd do not have to make the dangerous U turn using the 495 ramps.

The result of this would be threefold.
(1) The developer would have a first class entrance AND EXIT off Rte 9, and therefore will be able to get higher quality industrial development on the 100 acre site, which will increase in value significantly.
(2) The subdivision would be saved (with NO connections to the industrial site).
(3) The entire neighborhood would be able to use Flagg Rd to get onto Rte 9, not just heading west, BUT ALSO EASTBOUND, AND SAFELY.

There is a solution here, under which everyone could benefit. It could be a win-win. I will certainly work with the residential abutters, and I have pledged to possibly work with the developer, but it takes two to tango.

As it now stands, this project is the single most harmful development in Southborough, and it is unwelcome and unnecessary.

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