Planning Board hearings: Changes to Over 55 & solar zoning – Feb 8; St. Mark’s Solar – Feb 22

Above: Upcoming hearings cover a controversial solar installation and changes to Solar and Over 55 development bylaws. (image left posted to flickr by Mike Baker; right from Pixaby image)

The Zoning Board of Appeals recently gave the school a green light to pursue a commercial sized solar array within a residential zone. The board was specifically ruling on the school’s “by right” protection under state law as an educational institution.

The ZBA told objecting abutters that their specific concerns should be saved for Planning Board hearings on the project. The school is moving forward with plans, and that hearing is scheduled for February 22 at 7:00 pm.

Next Monday, the Planning Board’s scheduled hearings include proposed amendments to the Solar bylaw adopted this year. The stated intent is to allow the Town to pursue a Green Community certification.

The board will also will hold hearings on a change to Over 55 zoning. The Warrant Article would strike the developer’s non-profit requirement. That issue, and ideas for future improvements to the bylaw were discussed at their January 14th meeting.

In her last meeting as Town Planner, Jennifer Burney, stated that Town Counsel requested changing the non-profit requirement in the bylaw. According to Attorney Aldo Cipriani’s letter, in a recent ruling the court found the clause to be “an invalid exercise of the Town’s zoning authority”.

Member Jesse Stein objected to the impact of simply striking the requirement. Burney responded “It doesn’t change the affordability, because there is no affordable requirement.”

But Stein opined that it changes the character/intent of the zoning: 

The reason it was in there was to make it clearly, and unquestionably, not a capitalist, free market enterprise, to facilitate this housing. So, by simply striking that, you’ve removed that component of economic protection.

[Note: Lack of affordable options for seniors looking to downsize is one of the housing issues the Town has been attempting to address. That’s something Stein would be especially attune to, since he is also a member of SHOPC (the Southborough Housing Opportunity Partnership Committee). ]

As a plaintiff in the cited case, Meme Luttrell, volunteered that the ruling is still under appeal. She told the board that making the change is premature.

But Burney advised that Town Counsel was trying to avoid the Town ending up in litigation:

So, if you don’t want to take the advice of Town Counsel, that’s on this Planning Board

However, the Town Planner did “strongly recommend” the board work on making other future changes to the bylaw. She advised raising the cap and adding an affordablity component as a requirement or density bonus.

Below is a list of the board’s six pending Warrant Articles. I’ve noted below which items are scheduled for upcoming Planning Board Meetings:

(You can see the full draft language here, along with some of Burney’s comments for the board).

Article 32: Road acceptance for William Colleary Lane – Reservoir View Estates (Scheduled for discussion, February 22nd at 7:45 pm)

Accepts William Colleary Lane as a public way; its construction and subsequent maintenance complies with the town’s rules and regulations as such may now be accepted sas a permanent public way in the town.

Article 33: Road acceptance for Fox Hill Drive – Parkerville Heights (Scheduled for discussion, February 22nd at 7:45 pm)

Accepts the Town to accept Foxhill Drive as a public way; its construction and subsequent maintenance complies with the town’s rules and regulations as such may now be accepted as a permanent public way in the town.

Article 34: Open Space acceptance Killam Farm

The final step in Town acceptance and ownership of the approximately 7.57 acres of permanent open space.

Article 35: Green Communities/Solar Bylaw Amendment (Hearings open, February 8 at 7:30 pm)

Created to satisfy the Green Communities Act as-of-right zoning requirement by setting reasonable standards to facilitate development of As-of-Right Commercial large scale ground mounted solar energy systems.

Article 37: Over 55 amendment to Article III of the Zoning Code entitled “Use Regulations” (Hearings open, February 8 at 7:45 pm)

To fix the current clause which limits ownership of a multifamily elderly housing to a “public or non-profit community housing organization”. The board was advised it is an invalid exercise of the Town’s zoning authority in that a town can regulate use but not ownership.

Article 39: Pine Hill Conservation Restriction

Accepts a Conservation Restriction for open space consisting of approximately 26.59 acres to be held in perpetuity for conservation purposes.

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7 years ago

How does a person find out who has sponsored an article? I am specifically interested in article 37.

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