Alternative plans for 20 Elm St.?

May 16, 2019 by

Published May 16, 2019

By MAUREEN DOHERTY

NORTH READING — Town representatives met with the development team of NY Ventures Monday afternoon to discuss the town’s concerns with the 200-unit 40B development proposed for the site at 20 Elm St., along with potential alternatives.

The town’s concerns were outlined in two different letters sent to MassHousing in December and January during the public comment period. Hundreds of letters from abutters, town residents, politicians and surrounding towns who draw water from the Ipswich River watershed also submitted comments opposed to the development while MassHousing acknowledged that six letter-writers favored the development.

MassHousing gave its Site Eligibility Letter to NY Ventures on March 28 but used the points raised by the town as matters that would need to be addressed or studied further by the developer during the comprehensive permitting process.

The May 13 discussion took place in advance of any formal application for a comprehensive permit application to be heard by the town’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), which would have jurisdiction over the application at the local level and would be held during a public hearing process. A public hearing before the Conservation Commission for an Abbreviated Notice of Resource Area Delineation (ANORAD) originally slated for May 8 was rescheduled for June 12 at 6 p.m.

As briefly discussed at the May 6 Select Board meeting, a placeholder article, No. 28, has been included in the June Town Meeting warrant to potentially amend the town’s Zoning Bylaws under its existing Planned Unit Development (PUD) bylaw — which is the bylaw that made the development of The Greens on the 18-hole Thomson Country Club golf course across the street from this site possible over 30 years ago.

Treating it as a placeholder enabled the town to meet the publication and mailing deadline requirement to homes two weeks in advance of the Monday, June 10 Town Meeting, per the Town Charter. The Memorial Day holiday on May 27 means it has to be received by May 25.

But as Town Administrator Michael Gilleberto explained on May 6, if an agreement was not reached by both sides to approach the development as a PUD rather than a 40B it would simply be passed over at Town Meeting, with the next opportunity to amend the ZBL in October, unless a special TM was was called.

Generally speaking, when the town created the PUD there was much more open space in town. Yebba’s site has just over 19 acres, with about five acres proposed to be left to house the restaurant, pub and pool on-site.

Potential amendments to Article XI of the ZBL listed in the placeholder warrant article include, but are not be limited to: requirements for continuous acreage, open space, density limitations per acre, building coverage limitations, housing unit type restrictions, maximum height requirements, creation of new or amended current overlay districts and creation of new or amended zoning districts. “Spot zoning” changes, even if approved by Town Meeting voters would not hold muster with the state, therefore proposed changes involving the PUD under the ZBL would need to have a broader application to other potential sites in town.

According to Gilleberto, in addition to himself and Yebba, those present at the meeting were Select Board liaisons to the ZBA Andy Schultz and Steve O’Leary and Town Planner Danielle McKnight. Town Counsel and NY Venture’s counsel and consultants were also in attendance.

“At the meeting, town officials reviewed the town’s previously outlined concerns regarding the proximity of some of the proposed buildings to properties on Lynn Street, the height of the proposed buildings, and the overall density of the proposed development,” Gilleberto said in a statement.

“Discussions were productive and the participants agreed that progress was made toward addressing the town’s concerns while considering site and market constraints.  NY Ventures will review its development proposal in consideration of the town’s feedback. The parties agreed to meet again soon to further discuss alternatives, and will continue to keep the public apprised of the progress of discussions,” the T.A. continued.

He added, “The outcome of the discussions will be subject to either a zoning bylaw amendment or an application for a Comprehensive Permit pursuant to G.L., c. 40B, either of which include the opportunity for public input.”

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