Friday, August 29, 2003
Still no action on Lowell Street 40B application
After months of public hearings, an on-site inspection, and an engineering peer review of the plans, the Board of Appeals has not yet voted on the application of developer Michael Kenny to build an eight-unit development comprising two affordable housing units and six market-value units. At its August 13 meeting the board appeared ready to discuss the application and vote. However, the Conservation Commission was meeting the following night, and in deference to them, the BOA agreed not to close the hearing until their input could be received.
Originally Kenney received state approval to build a development with twice as many units, but acquiesced to the Selectmen's request to reduce the size of his plan. The comprehensive permit application, under Chapter 40B, is intended to provide a fast-track application process for affordable housing projects, bypassing local zoning bylaws, but involving the local Board of Appeals.
Since its last meeting in May, the board conducted an on-site inspection of the property. In addition, the board asked for and the builder agreed to a peer review of the site development. At the BOA meeting on August 13, with that report in hand, Hal Sauer, acting chair, reported that David Ross and Associates, who had reviewed the project, suggested a number of modifications which the builder's engineer, George Dimakarakis of Stamski and McNary, agreed to incorporate into the development's site plan.
Some of the recommended modifications to the site that were already incorporated into the plan included:
· a widening of the roadway to 20 feet
· an increase in the number of available parking slots for each unit
· a longer leveling area at the street
· a grade increase from 2% to 3%.
Abutter John Brewer voiced his concerns about the driveway from the south side of the development where the sight distance is limited. Other concerns raised by Planning Board member Louise Hara and Planning Board Administrator George Mansfield included inadequacy of on-site parking, the design of the detention basin in the front of the property, the adequacy of landscape plans to screen the basin and the cistern, and an adequate erosion plan. Dimakarakis reported that a landscape architect had modified the plans and the proposed changes are ready for review.
Jesse Johnson, representing David Ross and Associates, commented specifically on the erosion plan for the site. "The plan is good," he said, "but [it is important to] stay on top of the contractor. Policing is important." He recommended hiring an engineer, a clerk of the works, to observe the start of the site work.
The board was informed that the Mass Housing Partnership has money for towns to hire a "facilitator" to oversee these types of projects · a third party consultant. Sauer said that they would look into this further.
As in previous meetings, abutter John Brewer pleaded with the board to conduct an economic review of the project, suggesting, "Hire someone to see if the project can be made smaller and still be economically feasible." He reported on a 40B project in Acton of much bigger size which was doing just that. Town Counsel Rich Hucksam responded that what Brewer was proposing was "a profound misstatement of the law." He explained that Mass Finance has the responsibility to review the economic viability of a plan; the local board of appeals may review a plan only in terms of public health, safety, environment and proper design.
Kenney, who said little during the meeting, did comment that his original proposal had used innovative technology, and that this project was "a first-class well-presented project."
Board members asked few questions and offered few comments on the plan. There was no motion to vote on the application.
The next meeting of the Board of Appeals will be on Wednesday, September 3.
© 2003 The