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Open space land acceptance process hiccups continue to frustrate OSPC

by | Jan 5, 2024 | Featured: News, News

The Open Space Preservation Commission at its meeting Thursday night continued to express frustration over the flawed conveyance process of open space land in development projects, focusing half of the meeting on discussion on the eight-unit subdivision known as Connelly Farms.

The development, currently under construction, is located on Hayden Rowe Street just north of the intersection with College Street.

The OSPC ultimately voted unanimously to accept the open space as previously approved by the Planning Board. It also voted unanimously to recommend to the Planning Board an easement proposal suggested by the developer in lieu of the developer being required to build a trail on that land.

OSPC chair Ed Harrow said he was “really frustrated” that the OSPC has not been included in discussions about developments where open space and landscape preservation developments are proposed. There had been some confusion from the development team as to whether OSPC or the Planning Board should have been approached first.

“All of these problems are because of a lack of communication between the parties,” Harrow stressed.

He said his anger was not directed toward developer Craig Nation, and he praised the development team for working with abutter Wayne Eddy and the OSPC.

In another recent case, land surrounding Whisper Way previously was supposed to be conveyed to the town as part of an OSLPD special permit for a 12-unit subdivision, also being developed by the Nations. But Planning Board meeting documents showed that four lots had building permits issued for the construction of the homes in that subdivision prior to the conveyance of the open space or the placing of a conservation restriction on the land, contrary to the requirements of the OSLPD bylaw. Also, two of the three units constructed were issued certificates of occupancy and were sold before the land donation was discussed with OSPC.

“I just can’t believe nobody asks Open Space,” noted Nation. “And I guess maybe that should have been on us to do it way back when.”

Added Nation: “It’s the way we’ve been doing business in town for 40 years here.”

The Whisper Way proposal will come before the Planning Board at its meeting Monday night.

The Connelly Farms development, which Nation said has been in the planning process for years, could face a delay because of the open space issue.

“It’s hard playing catch-up,” said Jane Moran, the Planning Board liaison. “We’re trying to clean up stuff, so it’s a little uncomfortable right now. Going forward, it should be easier.”

Nation said an issue with this development is that 50% of it has to be open space. Of that land, half has to be “upland and not wetland.” He surmised that some boundary adjustments would need to be made to obtain that ratio, which could lead to a zoning variance request.

“At the very least, we’d have to go back to [the Planning Board],” he added.

After going on a site walk the previous day with Nation, Harrow and member Steve Levandosky said that a meadowed parcel behind Eddy’s land might have been preferred as part of the open space land donation.

Said Harrow: “When there’s an open space subdivision, Open Space should be there from the get-go to see what’s going on.”

Moran said the Planning Board and the Nations “spent years going over that open space.” But only recently, “the Planning Board put its foot down” and said projects needed to be signed off on by the OPSC. She said a trail had been part of that planning concept.

Nation proposed an easement behind Lots 4, 5 and 6 that would allow connection to two open space parcels. He did so, he said, “to keep the peace with all the interested parties that have been chirping at my ear for the past year and a half.” This would be in lieu of the developer’s obligation to build a trail on the land.

Another issue raised about the property was in regard to whether the billboards there will be allowed to remain. There was a question raised by the Planning Board in 2020 as to whether they are historically significant. The OSPC voted unanimously to bring the issue to the attention of town counsel for review.

Added Harrow: “They’re part of the charm of Hopkinton.”

OSPC votes to seek appraisal of 70 Spring Street property

The OSPC voted unanimously to “get a rough estimate” for the cost of an appraisal for 70 Spring Street, a 2.58-acre parcel that the owner is seeking to sell.

Trails Committee may fund open space maintenance

Harrow noted that Trails Committee chair Peter LaGoy gave him “a verbal agreement” that the Trails Committee “would be willing to fund maintenance of trails and open space on open space property.” Harrow said he will seek clarification in writing from LaGoy on the properties that would encompass.

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