Proposed development off Chestnut Hill Road

by beth on October 20, 2015

Post image for Proposed development off Chestnut Hill Road

Above: Land along Chestnut Hill Road is the site of a new proposed development. Image from Google maps)

Last night, the Planning Board held a preliminary discussion for a potential 10-16 home development off Chestnut Hill Road. Two of the homes would be affordable, but may be relocated off site.

An attorney for developer Habitech Homes walked the board through two versions of plans for the land.

The field in question was part of the former Johnson Farm. According to a 2014 column by Donna McDaniel, the Johnson’s farm was Southborough’s largest, covering much of the west end, and owned by the “first family to settle on what would become our town”. But after 495 split the land, much was sold off for developments.

Town Planner Jennifer Burney indicated the land had been designated 61a conservation Land but was taken out of that status last year. The 15.75 acre parcel is currently unprotected and on the Open Space Plan’s priority list for development. 

Left Conventional plan, right flexible plan (Cropped from Southborough Access Media video)Attorney & Engineer George Connors presented the board with two options last night. The first, conventional plan divide the land into 12 lots with a cul de sac at the end.

An alternative, “flexible zoning” plan showed a large area reserved as Open Space between the development and the road. A 16 home development would be hidden behind a “dense evergreen barrier”.

20151020_sample shared center islandIn that version, the houses are set back with small yards around a heavily landscaped, shared center island. The island would include areas where children can play. Connors referred them to a similar design they constructed in Shrewsbury. (Click on thumbnail to enlarge, or visit Google Maps for a better look.)

Both plans included the two affordable units. But Connors said he plans to request having them relocated off-site. It’s something he also wanted to discuss with SHOPC*. (That meeting is scheduled for 6:00 pm at 9 Cordaville Road.)

Planning Board and SHOPC member Jesse Stein said that was against Town Code with only allows that in extraordinary circumstances.

Connors argued that the financial burden of maintenance in the private road development including shared septic, drainage and snow plowing would be too heavy a burden for affordable home buyers. He believed that met Town Code criteria. Stein disagreed.

Member Kathy Bartolini expressed different concern about the allowing relocation or payments in lieu of. She wasn’t sure the town has the expertise to determine the in lieu of payment or to take on properly constructing affordable homes. She said towns also have to make sure they don’t cluster affordable housing.

Burney confirmed that it is up to the Planning Board to decide whether the flexible option and relocated affordable homes are in the Town’s best interest. However, she pointed out that the benefit of the flexible plan is protecting priority Open Space. Heads from Conservation and Recreation were already included in conversations prior to the Planning Board meeting. And Open Space scheduled a meeting on the development which should have taken place this morning.

The preliminary discussions are for the purposes of getting informal feedback before submitting formal plans for review. At Chair Don Morris’ request, Burney explained that the Town Code recommends a preliminary discussion with the Planning Board in advance of formal applications, to improve communications. Morris expressed concern that they sometimes cause miscommunication instead.

Towards the end of the talk, Morris asked if the Town buying the land was still on the table. Connors didn’t know but confirmed that the land hadn’t been sold. It was a question that Selectman Brian Shea had attended to hear. He wanted to know if the Town had first right of purchase.

According to Open Space Preservation Commission’s Freddie Gillespie the Town has one year of right of first refusal after a property comes out of 61a. That happened in July 2014, and the property didn’t change hands within the year, so the right of first refusal no longer applies.

*SHOPC=Southborough Housing Opportunity Partnership Committee.

Previous post:

Next post: