By Dot Bergin
As Glenn Garber Planning Director remarked at the September 30 Planning Board hearings, “the Board has a lot on its plate right now, with anywhere from nine to 10 major projects in varying stages of development.”
Two of those projects drew a group of interested citizens on Wednesday evening, to hear more detail and to voice opinions. The first hearing dealt with the proposed By-Law change that would enable an increase in the size of Page Place condominiums from the present 31 units to about 46 units (final number not yet determined) and would permit construction of garages, a feature greatly desired by the current residents. The second hearing concerned a proposed Planned Residential Development (PRD) on South Road.
Page Place By-Law Change
Amy Lloyd, chair, emphasized to those attending the hearing that the decision to approve – or reject – the By-Law amendment is entirely in the hands of the voters at the forthcoming November 2 Special Town Meeting. The Board is, however, providing input into the proposed By-Law change although it has not yet reached a decision on whether or not to recommend passage. Their recommendation will be presented at the Town Meeting. A By-Law change requires a two-thirds vote of TM members. Important to note: this change applies only to the specific By-Law on school property conversion. The Planning Board must still approve the final plan for the development. As Glenn Garber pointed out, the petitioners are proposing a change in the law. Issues such as open space, design, etc., would be dealt with by the Planning Board through the Special Permitting process.
At the public hearing, Attorney Pam Brown, representing Page Place Condominium Trust, petitioners, reviewed the latest version of the By-Law amendment. Click here to read the amendment.
Following Board discussion Chairman Lloyd opened the meeting for public comment. Main concerns of residents who commented were:
- Increase in area traffic at the intersection of Page and Old Billerica Road, already a “nightmare,” according to Doug Touart. Bonnie Ford concurred. Touart also worried about the potential impact on Bedford schools, if larger units are built at Page Place (there is the possibility of some 4-bedroom units.)
- Decrease in town open space, with resulting increase in number of coyotes and deer in residential areas (a concern voiced by Bonnie Ford.)
- Pedestrian connection to walking trails (Ralph Hammond hoped this could be maintained.)
- Include affordable “component” in the By-Law. Jean Hammond spoke in favor of this.
(Briefly, Page Place was originally an elementary school, built in1956. In 1985, with a declining school population, the Town sold the property and it was converted into condominiums. A special By-Law was written to cover the conversion of a public school building into dwelling units.)
Planned Residential Development (PDR) on South Road
The second public hearing focused on the special permit application for the 150A-162 South Road Planned Residential Development (PDR.)
Developer Robert Scarano presented plans for The “Cottages at Depot Crossing,” emphasizing that the nine condominium units he is proposing will be a “sustainable green community.” Scarano outlined the advanced technology to be incorporated in the design of the houses and the ground underneath. He described a “Geogrid” plastic undercoating covered with loam, which will permit rain run-off from the units to be re-absorbed via the porous pavement. The units are heated slabs on grade, providing radiant heating. The Board complimented Scarano on the environmental sensitivity of the design.
Several South Road residents had reservations about the PDR. Steve Parrella had questions about the entrance road into the project, which would impact his property. Chester Wiggins recalled times when Elm Brook (at the rear of the project) flooded nearby homes. Jessica Wiggins worried that the access to the bike path would encourage users to go through her yard. Rebecca Williamson also spoke in opposition. Scarano promised to talk with the individual South Road residents and to try and allay their concerns.
The South Road PDR hearings will continue at the next meeting of the Planning Board on October 13.