Open space bylaw postponed by voters

Oct 21, 2020 by

Published October 21, 2020

FALL TOWN MEETING voted to indefinitely postpone the proposed OSRD Bylaw on Saturday, Oct. 17. Close to 350 residents attended the meeting. (Dan Tomasello Photo)


LYNNFIELD — In the midst of total confusion and a chaotic debate, Fall Town Meeting voted to indefinitely postpone the proposed Open Space and Residential Design (OSRD) Bylaw on Saturday, Oct. 17.

Planning Board Chairman Brian Charville said the purpose behind Article 9 was to protect trees and preserve open space during the subdivision development process.

“This open space bylaw, if adopted, would only affect new subdivisions in town proposed after this date,” said Charville.

The Board of Selectmen unanimously voted not to recommend Article 9. Selectman Phil Crawford said the board opposed the bylaw change because they feared it would change the character of the town because homes would be “clustered together in a small subdivision.”

“That is not in the character of the town,” said Crawford.

Crawford, whose wife works as a Realtor, also claimed the OSRD Bylaw would “devalue” future lot prices and home prices if only half of the property was developed under the proposed bylaw.

Finance Committee Vice Chairman Tom Kayola said a majority of the FinCom voted to recommend the OSRD Bylaw.

“The Finance Committee supports the Planning Board being proactive in trying to maintain open space throughout the town,” said Kayola.

Charville said the OSRD Bylaw would not increase the number of units that would be located at a new development.

“The same number of homes could be built, but they would be built on just half the area,” said Charville. “The homes that we now consider by-right would be built on smaller lots with the balance of the site being preserved permanently as open space.”

If the OSRD Bylaw was used during the Tuttle Lane subdivision development process, Charville said it would have saved trees and open space near Reedy Meadow.

“There would still be nine homes, but they would be clustered closer together,” said Charville.

In addition to preserving open space, Charville said the OSRD Bylaw would have encouraged developers to construct shared wells for drinking water and fire protection. He noted that developer Angus Bruce is looking to purchase the Richardson-Green property, 1325 Main St., and wants to construct 15 homes as part of a proposed development called Hannah’s View Estates.

“More than 20 acres of that land could be preserved as open space,” said Charville.

Charville said the OSRD Bylaw is a “smarter approach.”

“We propose that the new open space approach is the by-right approach,” said Charville. “A developer could still take the old approach and do a traditional subdivision, but that would have to be done by Special Permit.”

Planning Board member Kate Flaws addressed several misconceptions about the proposed OSRD Bylaw. She said there are small lots currently in town and the belief that small lots don’t exist in Lynnfield is wrong.

“I don’t believe a smaller lot size means a lower value and results in less revenue to the town,” said Flaws. “I think the sales price being lower is also false. If you look at the Riverwalk development in Concord, those are one- and two-bedroom homes that sell for about $800,000 apiece. That is not what is being proposed for these developments in Lynnfield. They are larger. I also question why the selectmen are more concerned with the profit a developer might make in a particular project than what is best for our community.”

Flaws said the town’s Zoning Bylaw was created to “restrict the number of housing units built in this town.”

“The fact that zoning was intended to limit density over the acreage of our town is not contradicted by open space residential design,” said Flaws. “You would still have the same number of houses over the same parcel you would otherwise have had. This does not contradict our Zoning Bylaw.”

Before upper Main Street resident Ken Peterson spoke out against the OSRD Bylaw, Flaws urged Town Meeting to ignore his “complaints.”

“The number of units for each parcel does not change,” said Flaws. “There would not be more traffic. It would simply move the lots off of areas that should be protected. We did consult with the fire chief, who confirmed using this design does not pose any additional fire risk.”

A number of residents booed Flaws after she told Town Meeting to ignore Peterson’s concerns.

“You shouldn’t be saying that,” one man shouted.

Town Moderator Joe Markey said the outburst was unnecessary.

“It is not okay to boo someone while they are talking at Town Meeting,” said Markey. “We are not kids. That has to stop.”

Peterson, who was a staunch opponent of two elderly housing developments that the Spring Town Meetings in 2018 and 2019 rejected and also opposes the proposed Hannah’s View Estates subdivision, urged Town Meeting to reject the OSRD Bylaw. He claimed the Planning Board created the bylaw in order to “eliminate zoning.”

“The Residence D District is the only part of town that lacks piped-in water, fire protection or even hydrants,” said Peterson. “We are requesting your support to amend the proposed OSRD Bylaw or outright reject it.”

Peterson said the cluster zoning that would be allowed by OSRD Bylaw is a “major zoning change.” He said locating homes closer together will be a fire hazard for upper Main Street residents.

“It would result in unsafe and possibly unlivable conditions,” Peterson claimed.

Main Street resident Lauren Hurton inquired if the OSRD Bylaw was purposefully created to protect trees and wildlife.

Charville said no.

“The idea is to have every subdivision done in a more intelligent way,” said Charville.

In response to a question about water from Mohawk Lane resident Gail Caputo, Charville said the proposed OSRD Bylaw encourages developers to construct shared water wells and shared wastewater treatment plants. If the Hannah’s View Estates development gets constructed under the existing rules and not the OSRD Bylaw, Charville said, “There would be no shared systems.”

“They would be located next to where the Lynnfield Center Water District’s public wells are now,” said Charville. “You are going to have 15 straws in the ground sucking at the same aquifer. If you adopt this approach, it is going to encourage shared wells that would serve all of the homes instead. You would have one straw in the ground and rather than 15.”

Peterson said he is concerned the OSRD Bylaw would have a negative impact on upper Main Street residents’ private wells.

Patrice Lane resident Patrice Campbell made a motion to indefinitely postpone Article 9. Several residents seconded Campbell’s motion.

“I have read this and I have had headaches for most of the week,” said Campbell. “I have talked to one person who says one thing and I have talked to another person who says another thing. Usually our boards agree before they come to Town Meeting. I think we need to talk about consensus. I very much appreciate what the Planning Board is trying to do. I hope the proponents and opponents will come together to bring something to us in April that is more satisfactory.”

Cranberry Lane resident Page Wilkins urged Town Meeting to reject Campbell’s motion and approve the OSRD Bylaw. She recalled that she attended a number of Planning Board meetings when the Tuttle Lane subdivision was being discussed, and said she was disappointed to learn that the developer had the right to clear-cut trees. She and several of her neighbors worked to preserve some trees at the development, but not all of them.

“What this town needs are options and we don’t have any options,” said Wilkins. “If we postpone this and don’t vote to allow an option, we are going to be stuck with the same thing that everybody complains about. When the trees fell on Summer Street, people were saying, ‘How could our town let this happen?’ The town didn’t have any choice and now everybody is complaining they have a choice. If we postpone this, we are not going to have any tools in our toolkit.”

Main Street resident Patrick Sullivan encouraged Town Meeting to indefinitely postpone the OSRD Bylaw.

“We have to get it right,” said Sullivan.

After the discussion, Town Meeting voted to indefinitely postpone Article 9. A large number of attendees left the meeting after the OSRD Bylaw discussion concluded and before Article 10 was discussed.

Charville told the Villager he was disappointed in Town Meeting’s vote.

“It is to the town’s detriment in the near-term that Town Meeting indefinitely postponed Article 9,” said Charville. “Developers are aware of what we are doing and one put in a preliminary subdivision plan three days ago in order to get under the wire and do things the old way. That will be a detriment to the town’s environment. Going forward, we have to see what the majority of the Planning Board wants to do in terms of bringing an effort like this back to Town Meeting.

“But I have got to think given the apparent significance of opposition at Town Meeting to doing it any way other than the old way, I highly doubt we will bring an article like this back again,” he continued.

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