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Planning Board approves Box Mill development plan

by | Nov 8, 2022 | Featured: News, News

The Planning Board at its meeting Monday night reviewed a couple of relatively unusual cases regarding subdivision plans.

The first item discussed involved an approval not required (ANR) for a subdivision on Box Mill Road, off Leonard Street. An ANR allows for the division of land into lots with frontage on existing public or private roads. Neither the applicant, Rick Barbieri, nor project manager Dave Marquedant appeared at the hearing.

Principal Planner John Gelcich explained that the request was to allow two lots on Box Mill Road to be deemed buildable. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) previously approved Barbieri’s request that Box Mill Road be considered a right of way, he said. It would serve as frontage for the lots.

“All we have to establish is that it is not a subdivision, that it meets the frontage requirements of zoning, and that it meets the lot area of zoning,” he said, noting that the applicant is not building a new road, so it would not be considered a subdivision.

Chair Gary Trendel confirmed with Gelcich that Barbieri has a right to build a road on the right of way; however, the applicant thought it would be in the best interest of the neighborhood to leave the right of way as is. Gelcich noted that the owner of the right of way is unknown. The right of way had been shown on a previous subdivision plan, which made it a right of way in existence, according to state law.

The ZBA determined that this is a right of way off which the applicant could access frontage, Gelcich pointed out.

Asked Trendel: “So I guess my question is then, if the right of way was established as a subdivision, then why aren’t these two lots considered part of the subdivision?”

Replied Gelcich: “Subdivisions don’t necessarily have to show lots; subdivisions essentially just show roads.”

While Box Mill Road is a subdivision, the lots built off it are not, he clarified. All of the existing lots were approved through the same ANR process and gained frontage off of Box Mill Road when it was originally constructed.

The lots meet the frontage requirement because they are on the right of way, Gelcich continued, and they also meet the lot area requirements. No new road is being built.

He added, “It’s a very complicated situation. It’s not normal.”

“The threat was, if you don’t give me these two lots, I’m going to build this road,” Gelcich continued, which brought the situation into sharper focus.

After this discussion, the board unanimously approved the request.

The board also voted unanimously to endorse a proposed subdivision plan. Gelcich explained that the applicant did not need to be present for the proceedings to move forward. Since the last time the plan was reviewed, the applicant provided missing information that had been requested by engineering consultant BETA Group, which was approved.

Morse Lane family subdivision proposal continued

The other somewhat unusual subdivision hearing focused on the Capobianco family subdivision on Morse Lane.

Attorney Timothy Nealon represented the applicant. He requested that a condition be removed from a plan approved in February 1992 that prevented the subdivision from exceeding four lots. The new proposal sought to allow for the creation of a fifth lot on the existing road.

This brought up a discussion of family lots, which is not a commonly used term. However, several abutters who supported the plan said that this concept previously was done in Hopkinton so that parents could divide their land among their children.

“There’s no real distinction between a family subdivision and a conventional subdivision in the regulations,” Gelcich explained. He noted that sometimes waivers would be granted in family subdivisions if provisions were that no further development would take place.

Trendel requested that the board do a site walk before voting on the proposal. It will take place on Nov. 19. The request will be reconsidered at the next meeting on Nov. 21.

Capital funding requests move forward

Trendel presented a recap of the pedestrian connectivity survey that previously was conducted by a Planning Board working group so that the board could gain perspective on a capital funding request that he submitted via the Planning Department in order for it to be eligible for this budget cycle. The goal was to implement the results of the survey into a phased approach that would allow for improvements for pedestrians, cyclists and runners via a capital funding request.

One survey finding Trendel highlights was that 85 percent of the survey’s 360 or so respondents believed that more sidewalks and trails would improve residents’ physical and mental health.

Loop trails of 2-4 miles were considered to be desirable for those who used trails for more active recreation.

Investing in paved infrastructure would increase pedestrian activity, particularly from downtown and around the schools. Also, safety features are important for major roads to improve safety and visibility.

Trendel added that he hoped members would consider joining the working group to revitalize this effort. Elyse Barrett Mihajloski decided to join Trendel and member Jane Moran as part of the working group. The working group will prioritize goals and eventually seek funding to implement initiatives.

Member Mary Larson-Marlowe said that she was glad to see sidewalks presented as part of an overall plan for pedestrian safety. They tend to get turned down at Town Meeting, she said, when funding gets tight. Trendel noted that the sidewalks not only benefit the abutters but also get people to use streets more actively.

One funding request the board unanimously approved was for sidewalks for a section of Chestnut Street from Wild Road to Smith Road to provide better connectivity to the Connolly Hill neighborhood at a cost of $514,240. The other request was for a sidewalk or stone dust trail for the Blueberry Lane subdivision to connect with EMC Park for $187,000.

Misc.: 72 East Main ANR approved

The board unanimously approved an ANR for 72 East Main Street that created three unbuildable parcels that allowed for their conveyance to another owner. Two of the three lots came out of much larger lots. …

The scheduled hearing regarding amending an open space mixed use development (OSMUD) site plan application for The Trails, a development off Legacy Farms North, was continued until the next meeting on Nov. 21 at the request of the applicant. Proposed changes to the stormwater management system, the sidewalks, and a trailhead parking lot will be reviewed.

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