ZBA & Planning: St. Mark’s Solar, ZBA defense against over-reach charges, and Caine’s Crossing Over 55 (plus my mea culpa) (Updated)

The Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board have had, and continue to, quite a few controversial projects in front of them recently. Here are some important updates.

(It includes a mea culpa on a mistake I made when I covered an Over 55 housing application. To sum up in advance, it looks like the Town Planner’s calculation was accurate; mine wasn’t. But I’m still not sure the applicant’s assertion that 12 units are allowed is correct.)

St. Mark’s Solar – Site visit this Saturday

When St. Mark’s School was last before the Planning Board, representatives agreed to hold a site visit for residents. It has been scheduled for this Saturday, April 2, from 10:00 am – 12:30 pm.

A letter to the board from Brian Falk stated:

Anyone interested in attending may reach the project site using the access driveway off of Sears Road across from the southern outlet of Sadie Hutt Lane. St. Mark’s will leave the driveway’s gate open during the site visit. Representatives of st. mark’s project team will be available to answer questions. Poles topped with balloons approximating the height of the proposed solar panels will be placed along the western edge of the project site adjacent to the access driveway.

A hearing on the project was scheduled for last week, but delayed to April 4 at the (absent) applicant’s request. Don’t be surprised if it gets continued again. When discussing rescheduling, the board determined that only three members will be present. Previously, the school requested a continuance when that occurred.

Caine’s Crossing (and my mea culpa)

A month ago, Bartolini Builders was in front of the ZBA to discuss a project at Southville and Parkerville. The Over 55 Housing project, Caine’s Crossing at Lincoln Square, was set to resume hearings last week. Instead, the applicant opted to continue to April 20, since only four of the deciding members were present.

When the applicant returns, he is required to show documentation that the Town bylaws allow 12 units to be built under the special permit.

When I covered the first hearing, I indicated it doesn’t. Now, I realize that my assumptions were wrong. But it’s yet to be seen if all 12 will be considered covered by the bylaw. 

In February I shared a resident’s assertion that the Town Planner had miscalculated the allowable units under Town bylaws. Sam Stivers stated that the bylaw was based on 7% of single family homes in town. The assumption seems to have been that bylaw language “Residences containing apartments shall be counted as one-family houses” referred to homes containing an in-law apartment.

Buying into his assertion, I went even further, doing my own math based on the assumption, stating that even fewer units may be available. Turns out, I was wrong. I apologize.

In following up over the weekend, I realized the bylaw language may refer to how to count any building with one or more apartments.

I checked in with Town Building Commissioner Mark Robideaux. He confirmed that was true and that the Town Planner’s math was right. But that math did change slightly (+.14) since the calculation was posted to the Town Website. Updated on January 5th, the Planning Board’s (unposted) stats show that 11.6 units are available.

Jack Bartolini is seeking 12 units. I’m guessing that the question of whether 11.6 can be rounded to twelve will have to be addressed. (The letter from Planning Board Chair Don Morris to the Building Commissioner confirms the calculation. But, it doesn’t provide clarity on the impact of a fraction.)

ZBA responds to over-reaching charges

[Note: It looks like I covered the Park Central discussion too soon. In a rush to share the stories, I stopped watching the video when it appeared that the ZBA was moving on to discuss new waivers. (I planned to watch that segment later to share any other important news tomorrow.) But, I missed at least one important response, when Bartolini was rebuked by Town Counsel Aldo Cipriano. I don’ have time to cover it tonight. So, the story below is really incomplete. Stay tuned for more.] 

Last Thursday, the ZBA responded to the most recent criticism on their handling of Park Central.

The Planning Board and Conservation Commission recently accused the board of over-reaching on granting Conservation Waivers for both the 40B and 40A projects.

Members were especially offended by mentions of the late hour for the decisions. Member David Eagle said the insinuation was “that it was a crazy in the middle of the night type of an arrangement. I took it as a personal insult.” Eagle said the meeting had run late and the developer made clear that decisions on the waivers were needed so he could continue with engineering drawings.

The ZBA Chair, Leo Bartolini countered Planning Board Don Morris’ statements that the ZBA had not properly posting notice on decisions regarding the Townhouse project. The agendas have listed:

The Residences at Park Central LLC – Capital Group Properties, LLC
Comprehensive Permit 40B

Bartolini clarified that the “Residences” LLC referred to the Townhouse project and the “Capital Group” LLC referred to the 40B condo project. And, decisions on the overall site for the two projects is covered under the comprehensive 40B permitting process. And he further clarified that the board was within it’s rights to grant waivers

Developer Bill Depietri also rejected statements made at the joint Conservation and Planning Meeting. He shared notes on several meetings and discussions where he had shared information with the boards on waivers he would be seeking. He said the waivers were necessary for him to proceed:

“I can’t complete my engineering without the waivers. This isn’t a 3-4 lot subdivision. It’s a 100 acres that we’re trying to design here.”

The ZBA chair asked “are the members agreeable that the motion will stay in place the way it is?” The other two acting members agreed.

Bartolini then responded to Conservation’s concern that now the developer would have no reason to implement any of their requests. Bartolini pointed out that the ZBA waiver included that they could impose conditions on the stormwater. The applicant will still be meeting with Conservation to walk through their plans. Depietri said that once he is through with Conservation and Planning Board, he’d like their conditions wrapped up in one set of conditions from the ZBA.

The Chair responded to criticisms lobbed against him that he doesn’t have the Town’s best interest at heart. His motivation has been to avoid getting three 40B projects with 1,200 additional cars per day and 70-90 school kids.

Finally, he schooled those that he doesn’t know enough about the bylaws he waived to have made the decision. He recounted attending the meetings where buffer zone and stormwater management bylaws were formed. And he pointed out that as a subcontractor in Southborough, he is aware of all the stormwater regulations.

Updated (3/28/16 5:51 pm): As I noted above, there was apparently much more to the waiver discussion. I’ll have to get back to you on that!

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7 years ago

In regards to the overreaching charges by the ZBA, any chance you can update this article with Town Council, Conservation Commission Chair and Planning Board Chair’s comments & input during that meeting? The charges were accurate, whether unintentional or not. The argument Mr. Depietri made about such a large project being a lot to engineer is actually an argument for a much more coordinated effort thought out the town boards. Everyone’s expertise is essential.

PLEASE, just permit and approve Park Central right – this town only has one shot at it!

7 years ago

Mr. Bartini is not avoiding 3 40B subdivisions. The original plan was for 3 buildings w the same amount of units that are now in the one big building. What he has allowed is another 200+ units that are non 40b to bypass wetlands, conservation and planning. None of which are affordable units. The traffic has increased from 1200 cars to over 3,000 and now that number is increasing to include exiting traffic from Cumberland farms, the existing office, existing hotel all to use Flagg rd as an egress. So please Mr. Bartolini please don’t tell us how your working in the towns interest.

7 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

I’m pretty sure the citizens and residents would be better off with for sale and not for rent units. Nobody asked for this to become a rental complex. The big issue I have is piling on to a project to include hotels, assisted living and the existing hotel, office building and Cumberland farms to egress on Flagg rd.. The road is horrible and to increase traffic by 3,000 plus the existing commercial traffic is ludacris.

Tim Martel
7 years ago
Reply to  Beth Melo

A housing development must include at least 20-25% affordable units in order to qualify for 40b protection. (Generally speaking, it won’t include more than that because it would be less economical for the developer.)

If the units are “for sale”, then each affordable unit is counted on our inventory (e.g. if a 100 unit complex of “for-sale” condos has 25% affordable units, then 25 units go on our inventory).

If the units are “for rent”, then all units go on our inventory (e.g. if a 100 unit complex of “for rent” apartments has 25% affordable units, then 100 units go on our inventory).

The 10% number refers to the threshold under which a town is susceptible to 40b laws – once a town has greater than 10% of its housing stock as affordable, then its free from 40b.

mike fuce
7 years ago

I am just wondering, shouldn’t all the greenish and libs be for this wonderful event, or is it “not in my back yard?

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