Friday, September 19, 2003
40B hearing closed, but landscaping still an issue
With some consternation on the part of abutters and members of the Planning Board and Conservation Commission, the 40B comprehensive permit hearing on the application of Michael Kenney to develop eight units on four acres at 302 Lowell Road, known as Laurel Hollow, was finally closed.
The Board of Appeals' hearings began last December on the proposal. A peer review of the development was completed recently and the only outstanding issue was the matter of a formal landscaping plan. This was the bone of contention at a heated meeting on September 11.
A BOA meeting was held a week earlier, on September 3, and a basic landscape plan was presented to the board just that day. The board had wanted to close the hearing that week, but were persuaded to allow members of the Planning Board, Conservation Commission and abutters to review the plan and make recommendations. On September 11 the board announced they had received written recommendations on the plan.
However, still concerned about the developer's landscaping plan, Conser-vation Commission Chair Tricia Smith and Planning Board Chair Louise Hara tried to persuade the BOA to keep the hearing open until a formal landscape plan by a registered landscape architect could be drawn up. Hara said, the closing of the hearing "stops the process of adding information." She was concerned for the abutters, but also for the procedure of handling this project.
Hal Sauer, acting chair of the BOA, recalled when he was chair of the Planning Board in years past, "We did not try to make developers jump through hoopsIf you treat developers reasonably, you can get more from them." He proposed that the BOA close the hearing, but not allow a building permit to be issued until a landscape plan that meets the abutters' and the town's concerns, is signed off by the BOA. Sauer proposed that if the BOA votes to approve the application, an acceptable landscape plan could be a condition for development.
Town Counsel Hucksam reminded the group that because this is an application under Chapter 40B, the developer has the option to appeal any decision to the state's Housing Appeal Board. Chapter 40B allows developers to bypass local zoning regulations and build higher density housing as long as 25% of the units are affordable. Two of the eight units at Laurel Hollow will be affordable.
Abutters John and Jane Brewer were concerned that the development will be next to their house. Ms. Brewer said, "40B developments are not usually in residential areas, between three private homes." Other abutters were concerned that if the hearing were closed, no more input in a public session would take place.
Planning Board member Dan Holzman said that in other communities a workshop had been an effective informal way of putting together all the parties and working out an agreeable plan together. Town Counsel Hucksam said this type of session, called a "negotiating session," normally takes place before closing a hearing, and the results are then incorporated into the final plan. He commented that landscape plans are part of the "final construction detail," and in the 40B process an applicant is not required to submit these as part of the proposal.
In a spirit of compromise, Sauer proposed that following the vote to close the hearing, the builder, interested board members and abutters sit down together in an informal workshop and develop a landscape plan acceptable to all. Sauer reiterated that if the board approved this application they would place a condition on the approval that a building permit would not be issued unless the board was satisfied that a landscape plan was acceptable to all parties.
The Board of Appeals agreed to meet September 23 to discuss the application.
© 2003 The