Friday, May 19, 2006
Coventry Woods 40B — is the end in sight?
Momentum toward finalizing the Coventry Woods 40B plan seemed to wane at Monday night's Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting as the abutters requested more concrete guidelines for water and septic testing and storm drainage calculations while the developer pushed for acceptance of the current "conceptual" plan and issuance of the comprehensive permit to begin construction. "This isn't a 'back-of-the-napkin' plan. There is an extensive amount of data provided. Now it's time to fine tune the plan based on how the boards sign off on it," commented Coventry Woods developer, Mark O'Hagan. Ken Kimmel, attorney for the abutters, stated that the "neighbors are concerned. They are trying to come to an agreement about the number of houses and where they are going to go. Now they are being asked to sign off on a design. [They are] getting nervous that the unaddressed issue regarding storm water should be resolved sooner than later."
The nature of 40Bs
Dan Hill, attorney for the ZBA, spoke to the differences in plan requirements from traditional permit requests and 40B permit requests. Regular permit requests typically require all analysis, permits and approvals to be obtained prior to consulting the ZBA for the permit. In Chapter 40B situations, however, developers need only submit a conceptual design to the ZBA. Various town agencies and interested parties review the proposal and identify issues. The ZBA then attempts to resolve major concerns up front, such as excessive density, before granting the permit. But issues such as storm water review are typically handled once the permit has already been granted, according to Hill.
While O'Hagan has been working with abutters, the peer engineer (Jerry Preble of Beals and Thomas), and the ZBA to resolve concerns, he is eager to reach a point where the permit can be issued and work can be started. "We need a starting point. Everyone understands the objectives once the permit is issued. We need that, a fixed plan. It's having a line drawn: Here is the line, here are the standards. Go ahead." O'Hagan submitted updated plans to the ZBA for review, including architectural sketches of the town home design, which is similar to a traditional colonial home.
Michael Epstein, an abutter from Spenser Brook Lane, spoke at the hearing: "I understand that [O'Hagan] needs a degree of certainty before spending huge amounts of money and [we're] getting good feedback from the ZBA at this point. But this [40B] process isn't that dissimilar from the Planning Board process." Epstein continued, referencing a ZBA guideline that consists of a complete list of items that the ZBA anticipates will be submitted by the applicant prior to granting the permit. "A thoughtful approach should be to go through the list and see what should be submitted pre- and post-permit. I do believe that a balance can be achieved. A peer engineer needs to review the list and see what should be submitted."
Changes to plan
I n April, after considering input from the abutters, concerned parties, and the Carlisle fire chief, O'Hagan reduced the number of units from 56 to 41, added a 30,000 gallon cistern to the property and incorporated a sprinkler system for the units in case of fire. The cistern and the sprinklers mitigated the fire chief's concern about the single access road into the development.
Currently, the developers and abutters with their respective attorneys are in private negotiations to create a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to submit to the ZBA that specifically states the work that would be done before the permit is issued as well as that work to be done after the permit has been issued in hopes of mitigating the potential for lawsuits should any party be dissatisfied. One of the key, outstanding issues preventing the MOU from being finalized is agreement over the process for testing the abutters' water systems.
O'Hagan's new plans with comments from the peer engineer, will be circulated to town departments, and O'Hagan will address the engineer's comments from the last submitted plan, specifically commenting on the amount of blasting to be conducted. The hearing is continued until June 19.
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