Friday, December 1, 2006
Coventry Woods heads for the home stretch
After more than a year, the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) hearing on the Coventry Woods plan to build a 41-unit development on Concord Street is winding down. At their November 27 meeting, the ZBA finished a first pass through the draft decision, drawn up by their consultant, attorney Dan Hill. At their meeting on December 18, the board will review remaining areas of disagreement with the applicant, Mark O'Hagan of MCO Associates Inc., who said he intends at that time to ask that the hearing be closed.
Cindy Nock, chair of the ZBA's Coventry Woods meetings, is ready to finish the hearing. She explained to the Mosquito that the board will close the hearing "when we have received all the information we feel we need to make our decision." Nock is also listening to the applicant, mindful that he can seek remedy from the State Housing Appeals Committee if he feels the town is delaying the process needlessly. Also, because Nock plans to retire from the board at the end of her term and board member continuity is important throughout a hearing process, she would like to complete the Coventry Woods application before June. "It can't go on forever," she concluded.
ZBA member Steve Hinton noted the board has listened to the applicant, the ZBA project consultant, their peer review firm Beals and Thomas, abutters and other town boards, but has not yet had a chance to discuss the project among themselves. Once the public hearing is closed the ZBA will have 40 days to deliberate and issue a decision on the Comprehensive Permit request.
Nock said her goal for the ZBA conditions on the Coventry Woods project is to have a document which the applicant will not appeal, that abutters will not appeal, or will not win on appeal, and that protects the town's resources, especially water resources.
During the November 27 meeting, members of the board and audience raised several possible topics for additional data collection, but they did not appear likely to delay the hearing significantly. For instance, Nock later explained how the request to perform well testing during the dry summer months may be written into the conditions for the permit, rather than holding up the hearing process until after the testing is complete. Landscaping details were to be discussed outside the hearing by the developer and abutters prior to the next meeting. A traffic study was recommended by the Planning Board, but Nock believed the peer review engineer and the ZBA were satisfied with the data presented by the applicant.
The Planning Board is responsible for reviewing normal subdivisions, but because Coventry Woods has been filed under state statute Chapter 40B, the Planning Board has only an advisory role. Under 40B, developers may bypass most local regulation and instead request a Comprehensive Permit from the ZBA, as long as 25% of the housing units in the development are classified as affordable.
The project is near wetlands and will also be subject to review by the Conservation Commission (ConsCom) under the state's Wetland Protection Act. O'Hagan has not yet filed with the ConsCom, and the ZBA noted that any additional data needed for wetlands issues must be requested later by the ConsCom.
The ZBA had asked O'Hagan to consider alternative septic system technologies that might reduce the size or improve the efficiency of the system. At their request, he said he looked into the system manufactured by Presby Environmental, Inc. but he preferred to use a conventional technology. Because O'Hagan could not give a detailed explanation of why he rejected the Presby system, the board asked the peer review engineer Gerry Preble to discuss it with the applicant's engineer, Stamski and McNary, Inc., before the next meeting. The ZBA noted that the Board of Health would have jurisdiction over enforcement of state Title 5 septic system requirements and further questions on that issue might be taken up later by the BOH.
At the suggestion of the Planning Board Chair David Freedman, the ZBA decided to walk the site once more on December 9, before the close of the public hearing.
© 2006 The