Park Central developer pushing for Planning Board site plan approval on September 19th

by Beth Melo on August 16, 2016

Yesterday, the Planning Board received the “100%” plans for the Park Central Site Plan Review. In last night’s hearing, the board and developer agreed to extend the application deadline and continue the hearing to September 19th. But it took more than a half hour of tense debate and an off camera consultation with attorneys to come to the agreement.

Initially, the developer Bill Depietri and his attorney pushed back, asking for a meeting to be held this month. Planning Board Chair Don Morris said that the full board wasn’t available until September 19th.

The discussion was more than a debate about who was right. It turned into a temporary battle of wills.

Early in the discussion, Attorney Angelo Catanzaro called the board’s delay unacceptable. Morris took umbrage, saying the comment was inappropriate given that the board had just received the plans.

When the developer refused to request an extension, Morris clarified the board’s options. If the August 17th deadline wasn’t extended, one of the options was denying the project based on insufficient submissions.

After more discussion, Catanzaro submitted a request for an extension to August 29th, knowing that at least two members weren’t available. Morris clarified that none were available. The board also said they needed time to thoroughly review the plans and future comments from the consultant.

Catanzaro angrily repeated that they had “98% plans” for 120 days. Members disagreed with the developer’s position that a few weeks was enough time. 

Member Meme Luttrell pointed out that the board hadn’t known what changes would be made or how extensive. And member Phil Jenks drew a comparison to Depietri’s refusal in the spring to “waste money” creating revised plans he knew would change.

Jenks said that wasting time in a full review of plans they knew would change was the same thing. Depietri disagreed since these changes were just “tweaks”. He claimed that the process was just being delayed. He backed up that he had worked through 4 dozen projects simultaneously with the board and the Conservation Commission in the past. They had never insisted on waiting for 100% plans before submitting to the engineers.

The board pointed to the size and complexity of the project as needing more review. Depietri dismissed the project size as relevant and asserted the project “isn’t that complicated”.

After more than 30 minutes Catanzaro agreed to a 10 minute recess to reconsider their options. He asked for a meeting with his client and Town Counsel. Counsel Aldo Cipriano insisted that the Chair be included. After their return, Catanzaro submitted a revised extension request to September 19th. It included a note calling for the Town’s consultants to submit any comments by September 6th.

[Editor’s Note: Later in the meeting, Cipriano addressed the board’s questions about his legal opinion on the Park Central approval process. And the board was set to discuss the draft Environmental Impact Report. I haven’t had a chance to listen to those segments yet. If anything from it merits sharing, I’ll post about that later this week!]

Updated (8/17/16 10:16 am): Corrected misspelling of Meme Luttrell’s name.

 

1 Mark August 16, 2016 at 7:37 PM

Hello. How do I listen to the meetings? I was at last night’s, but may not be able to make tomorrow’s ZBA meeting.

2 beth August 17, 2016 at 8:39 AM

Southborough Access Media will broadcast it live on Verizon-37 and Charter-192. They will also rebroadcast at later times, and post it to their YouTube channel.

3 Matthew August 17, 2016 at 8:57 AM

Is there any chance of stopping this based on the traffic problem? I understand the developer has done multiple traffic studies all pointing to how harmless it will be but can’t we decide that for ourselves? Can’t the board say that this is too much? What numbers can be used? Is the road only rated for “X” number of cars per hour and would the town be on the hook to make it bigger/safer? Are we also likely to get sued when someone is hurt due to excessive traffic? Hard to prove but it will still cost us money.

I think if any of the town boards had a chance to stand up to a developer to defend what the town wants then this is certainly their chance. Which is worse? getting sued by a developer for whatever reason he can invent or by the parents of child lost to an unsafe road.

4 Matthew Brownell August 17, 2016 at 1:14 PM

Matthew –

You raise an excellent point.

The traffic studies (especially the ones I’ve seen sponsored by Capital Group Properties/Park Central ) focus on whether a given road (s) can hold more cars/ accommodate more car traffic . . . .

Well, sure! One can always pack more cars onto a street, it is simply stuffing more sausage into the casing .

When thousands of daily car trips are added to Southborough streets from the Park Central project, there are several open questions remaining to be addressed ( and were not in any of the “traffic” studies I read)

Q: What is the traditional nature of “traffic” on the impacted streets? (Flagg Rd., Lovers Lane, Deerfoot Lane, Lynnbrook)

– This includes moderate to heavy usage of these streets by children on bicycles, elderly pedestrians, dog-walkers, parents pushing strollers, joggers, people out for a daily walk, groups of teenagers, and schoolchildren walking to/from The Neary and Trottier schools.

Q: What are the characteristics of the impacted streets that generate foreseeable, persistent, and hazardous conditions?
– blind curves, limited visibility
– twisting, very narrow, tight passageways, often 1-way
– pedestrian and recreational traffic as described above
– **no** sidewalks exist on any of the impacted streets
– dark, very limited street-lighting
– large objects immediately abutting the street curbs (specimen trees, rock walls, large boulders, metal & granite posts)
– contractor, residential, and delivery vehicles parked on the side and into the roads, forcing a 1-way traffic flow.
– poorly plowed in the winter
– 2/3rd’s of current car traffic on Flagg Rd. currently exceeds the posted 25 mph speed limit

Q: Can these existing conditions be abated/ re-mediated by the developer prior to construction of Park Central?

A: No. Not without destroying the natural characteristics of the streets, abutting properties, and local Southborough neighborhoods. This is not just my opinion, but the findings of the most recent independent consultant who studied Park Central, and traffic on neighboring streets.

5 Allan Bezanson August 17, 2016 at 1:45 PM

Matthew….

You could attend the ZBA meeting tonight and ask the board to state for the record if they are comfortable with their approval of the 2015 user variance which mandates traffic may flow both ways onto Flagg from John Boland Drive in spite of the MDOT 2013 study of 495/90/9 which states “NO LEFT ON FLAGG” and the published MDOT data that documents the very high crash rate at the Flagg/9 merge, worse even than the crash rate from the Park Central Drive egress which MDOT is closing for safety reasons. And you might ask how it could be that the town scoped out a new traffic study (by the developer’s consultant) omitting the Flagg/9 merge altogether and the substantial impact on narrow, winding, historic Clifford Road and Lovers Lane.

The traffic safety impact goes well beyond the existing neighborhood. The thousand new residents of Park Central, their visitors, customers of the Red Roof Inn, everyone who stops at Cumberland Farms and the projected new 125 room hotel and assisted living facility must all egress onto Flagg where they may turn either way. In all kinds of weather. All the children and others visiting the Neary and Trottier schools will be affected. This is what the Town of Southborough is about to inherit.

6 APRIL August 17, 2016 at 3:22 PM

I couldn’t agree more: ” can’t we decide that for ourselves?”

7 Matthew August 17, 2016 at 4:03 PM

The ZBA is made up of residents. Are they not allowed to think for themselves on this? Do they have to yield to the loudest or “angriest” voice in the room?

Haven’t enough people already chimed in that it will suck for the neighborhood? I had though that it was so obvious that the developer thought we should just stop talking about it because it wasn’t going to get any better. I think he referred to it as being “resolved”.

It seems the ZBA has enough information from the MDOT and support from the public to make the right call here. I’m afraid I would only insult them were I to attend and speak.
What reason will they give for caving into the developers wishes? Is it the 40b requirement and the threat that the developer could do something worse?

8 JMO August 20, 2016 at 11:37 PM

There’s a similar fight happening in Sudbury where a developer wants to cram a 250 apartment development by “exploiting” the affordable housing loophole. The MetroWest Daily News has been covering the story and I have been an avid follower because of the parallels. On Thursday, August 18, the latest update appeared. One paragraph in particular struck me as interesting. “The board can reject or limit the project if it believes local concerns for health, safety, planning or open space outweigh the regional need for affordable housing.” And, the article also stated that one of the reason they were trying to slash the project from 250 apartments to 30 units was because there was only going to be one entrance to the project. The board wanted to eliminate one of the proposed roads because of safety concerns based on increased traffic on what I assume is a small road because they cited issues with visibility, heavy traffic and children walking on the roads nearby. I’m not by any way an expert on affordable housing, but I do remember some earlier discussion about how we are in pretty good shape with affordable housing and this project was slipped through under questionable dealings. (I don’t remember the exact specifics, but I remember it sounded a bit sleazy to me.) So, do we have good legal advise? I there really nothing that can be done? How full is Madison Place? I am under the impression that some of that is affordable. Is it fully being utilized?

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