Developer wants to put 40B at old "Ritter's Dump" site

"It doesn't make sense to knock down an affordable home when you are trying to make more affordable housing" ~ Cobi Wallace


by Kevin Kohrt

November 30, 2005 — A stream of developers presented themselves to the Planning Board Monday evening with mixed results. Some of the decisions discussed by the Board can be found here:


Deerfield Estates


    The Capitol Group Properties of Southborough tonight outlined all of the restoration work and landscaping that will go into the 300 year old Dempsey house at the Deerfield Estates senior housing development on Lumber Street. In exchange for preserving the historic home and eventually put it "under the purview of the Historic Commission," the developers were seeking a revision to their concept plan. The revision broke up of several multiple-unit buildings into single-family structures and added on additional housing unit, bringing at least one structure 50' closer to the street, according to the developer. That was too close for some neighbors, though, and the developer was requested to return on Dec 12 with a revised plan showing all housing units back behind the 100' buffer along the roadway.


“I like the motion,” said Sandy Altamura in response to Jaime Goncalve’s proposal to approve the concept with the expectation of it meeting the 100’ buffer in the definitive stage, “but I want to see this plan; I want to see it worked out because we’ve been bitten by other developers where we thought we were all on the same page.” Chairman Mark Abate also expressed some interest in obtaining additional data on how the changes would impact local wells. File photo, Planning Board member Claire Wright.


Sudbury Estates


    A lengthy debate took place over the developer’s request to remove the final clause in the October, 2005 approval by the Planning Board for Sudbury Estates, located on Lincoln Street and Cedar Street Extension. This despite Board Member Scott Aghababian's up front assertion that “this is a simple issue for us. There is probably no reason for us to act on changes to the conditions at this point.”


    The clause in question required the developer to reach "a written, signed agreement with the owners of 50 Cedar St. Extension (Grasso) permitting the removal of trees on their property which is required to achieve the required sight distance". The developer has been unable to reach such an agreement with the neighbor, despite his statement recorded in the approval "that it will not be difficult for him to obtain an agreement from the abutter to remove the trees, as they already have an agreement for tree planting in the vicinity."


    The abutter has, in fact, filed an appeal to the Planning Board's original decision, and their lawyer pointed out that there is little or no precedent for modifying a Decision while a lawsuit is pending. But Mark Abate countered that “Elaine and I have both spoken with [Town Council] Attorney Faiman, and he has no problems with our amending the decision tonight.”


    Nevertheless, the board eventually choose to leave the wording as is and commission a study to determine if trees even need to be cut to obtain adequate sight lines. It was the feeling of many that tree cutting was probably not needed, and the whole clause could safely be deleted once the adequacy of current sight lines was documented.


E.L. Harvey


    E.L. Harvey's hearing was unanimously continued until the Dec. 12 meeting, allowing the board to get on to some less controversial business.


Community Covenant Church and Others


    In short order the Board approved the previously requested changes to the expansion plans of the Community Covenant Church on West Elm Street. They also approved a plot-line change for a lot being divided in two on North Mill Street, and a plot line removal for two development lots being combined into one on Oak Street.


Fieldstone Farm


    It was bad news for Fieldstone Farm, another proposed Wood Street 40b development to be located on top of what Mary Pratt identified as "Ritter's Dump" from days gone by. The Board was charged with providing comments to the Selectmen on the project, and the location was one of several issues identified with the project.


    "I'm not saying they will find 50 gallon drums of oil out there," pointed out John Coolidge (File photo). "On the other hand, I would not be surprised."


    Public input came almost exclusively from Cobi Wallace, whose Wood Street property is surrounded on three sides by the proposed development. She was not at all pleased with the prospect of 3 story condos surrounding her relatively small property. The developer had inquired about buying her out, but she declined.


    "Where would I go?" she asked, noting that wherever she might go after selling her modest home she would likely pay more taxes. Her old house would then be razed to make way for more condos. "It doesn't make sense to knock down an affordable home when you are trying to make more affordable housing," she concluded.


    Board member Sandy Altamura was "very disappointed they came in with this design," which she and others also summed up as "horrible".


    In the end, the Board came up with a number of suggestions for the selectmen to convey to the developer, including an environmental assessment meant to identify what was expected to be some potentially unpleasant waste on the site.

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