Public comments on Thomson 40B due Jan. 14

Jan 3, 2019 by

Published January 3, 2019

By MAUREEN DOHERTY

NORTH READING — The clock continues to tick on the timetable in the public comment period to MassHousing on the Ch. 40B comprehensive permit application of Nick Yebba (d.b.a. NY Ventures, LLC) at 20 Elm St.

As of today, abutters, town officials and all others interested in stating their case for or against the appropriateness of this site and the preliminary design for 200 rental units in five buildings on 19 acres have 11 days to deliver their comments to Town Hall.

The state agency has requested that the town submit written comments in one packet from staff, town officials and the public. To facilitate this process, the town’s planning office will accept comments via email, U.S. mail, delivery service or hand delivery by the end of the business day on Monday, January 14 at 4 p.m. That will give planning office staff about one day to assemble the packet and deliver the entire packet to Boston prior to the close of the comment period on Wednesday, January 16.

• To email your comments send them to: planning@northreadingma.gov.

• To send them by mail or delivery service, address your comments to: Community Planning Department, Town Hall, 235 North St., North Reading, MA 01864.

• To hand deliver your comments, visit the Community Planning office at Town Hall where Town Planner Danielle McKnight or her assistant will help you.

If the chatter on the town’s many Facebook platforms is any indication of the interest level in this proposal then the planning office will be quite busy in the next week and half. One thread on one page this weekend had well over 250 comments and a closed Facebook page dedicated to this proposal has also been launched.

It should be noted that this is the first step in the process. An official application has not been submitted to the town by the developer because NY Ventures must first obtain the go-ahead on its project eligibility filing from MassHousing before filing locally.

The plan calls for subdividing the 24.2 acre former Thomson Country Club into two parcels, a 5.2-acre parcel for the resort and restaurant with the balance of the 19 acres used for this proposal.

The developer’s application to MassHousing includes the following timeline:

• ANR (Approval Not Required) plan and Notice of Intent (NOI) to Conservation Commission (both left blank)

• Meet with neighbors and town staff in March 2019; file Comprehensive Permit application in April 2019; file MGL Ch. 40B, Section 6 application in April 2019 or sooner; hold ZBA (Zoning Board of Appeals) hearing in May 2019; obtain building permit in the spring of 2020 and have the first occupancies in the spring of 2021.

Under Ch. 40B Comprehensive Permit rules, developers are allowed to obtain a streamlined application process and eligible projects are allowed to skirt local zoning regulations in exchange for building 25% of the units for rent or for sale at below market rate to households who meet certain income requirements that fall within the low to moderate income range in relation to the region and federal HUD standards.

NY Ventures LLC is proposing this development as 100 percent rental units. As such, all of the units will count toward the state quota for each community to have 10% of its housing stock set aside as affordable. All 406 units at Edgewood Apartments on the Wilmington end of Rte. 62 count toward the quota, which is currently 9.6%.

North Reading’s Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) has been through this rodeo in years’ past. For those 40B projects the board succeeded in establishing working subcommittees comprised of a mix of town officials and members of the community to work out compromises with a developer’s team of professionals in a “friendly 40B” format. The subcommittee then reports back to the ZBA to outline its agreements and disagreements. The ultimate decision on a permit remains with the ZBA.

These working subcommittee meetings are still subject to the same provisions of the state’s Open Meeting Law and such meetings are posted at least 48 hours in advance and open to the public, whether held at Town Hall or on site.

Overview of the proposal

Yebba owns and operates Teresa’s Function Facilities, Grille 19, Teresa’s Prime and Resorts North on the property after purchasing the site from the Thomson Country Club six years ago.

His proposal under NY Ventures would subdivide the site, leaving these facilities intact on the remaining 5.2 acres.

The five 40-unit buildings abut residential single-family homes and the Ipswich River and would provide 320 bedrooms. Gillis Drive is the closest cul-de-sac of single family homes. Across the street from the site is The Greens condominiums, developed as a Planned Unit Development (PUD), which is part of the town’s Zoning Bylaw, in the mid-1980s on the private golf Thomson Country Club golf course.

Yebba also holds the contract for the Hillview Country Club function hall and pub at the public course which the town took by eminent domain over 30 years ago to halt a large townhouse complex from being built on the site, which also sits on an important aquifer for the community.

The former country club property sits in the town’s Residence A zone which requires a minimum lot area of 40,000 square feet, a minimum frontage of 160 feet plus front (40ft), rear (50ft) and side (25ft) yard setbacks.

A developer building a single-family house in an RA zone is restricted to a maximum height of 35 feet and 2.5 stories plus must provide a minimum of two off-street parking spaces.

A chart included in NY Ventures’ packet filed with the town includes references made of these local zoning standards the firm will seek by going with a 40B proposal. The most significant appears to be the maximum building height, which is being proposed at 57.3 ft. vs. the 35 foot maximum under local zoning. His building design includes parking underneath the building with four stories for living.

The town requires two off-street parking spaces per unit; the applicant is requesting 311 (1.56 per unit).

The lot area provided for all five buildings is 828,000 sq ft. Frontage is proposed at 79.97 feet vs. the required 160 in this zone.

The chart states the site exceeds the 25-foot side lot minimum setback by providing 49.5 feet as well as exceeds the front yard setback at nearly 450 feet from the road. It does not meet the rear lot setback of 50 feet but offers 44.06 ft.

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