SOTC Name Change and New Website!
“Save Our Town Center” is now “Save Our Town Character”! While the Town Center project (700, 750 & 800 Massachusetts Avenue) is far from over, we felt the need to expand our mission to include other zoning and development issues in our Town since quite a few have arisen of late. Our citizens’ group plans to monitor newly proposed projects and zoning bylaw changes and provide information and feedback to our community. The new website can be found at www.Boxborough-SOTC.org
Information relevant to the Town Center project can still be found on this page and will continue to be updated periodically to provide current information and links to Town Center project-related documents.
Settlement Agreement and Remand Order
In January of this year, the parties executed a non-binding Settlement Agreement which includes a reduction of the number of proposed units from 100 (50 buildings) to 50 (25 buildings). Other terms in the Settlement Agreement include:
- Priest Lane will no longer be an access point for the 50-unit project (although a private driveway from Priest Lane is proposed to access two residential lots to be created within the project area);
- Access from Massachusetts Avenue will only be used for construction purposes;
- Permanent access to the proposed development would be from Stow Road through the access easement located between Sheriff’s Meadow and Tisbury Meadow.
- Two separate residential lots, requiring a zoning change from Town Center (TC) to Agricultural Residential (AR) would be included in the overall property but would be accessed from a private driveway from Priest Lane.
- Sidewalks will be constructed from the project driveway on Stow Road to Route 111.
The Settlement Agreement also provides some issues that are to be determined in the future but which may be of concern to citizens. These provisions include:
- All remaining undeveloped areas on the subject property which is not already being used towards compliance with the Zoning Bylaw for existing development, may be used towards the dwelling unit per acre density calculation for further development to the north of the wetland area along Massachusetts Avenue/Route 111.
- The Applicant will work with the Town on the visioning for zoning changes for the Town Center Zoning District.
A Remand Order was also issued in January which provided a schedule for the proposed revised project to be heard by the Planning Board. Terms under the Remand Order included:
- Applicant to submit a Concept Plan to the Planning Board within 15 days;
- Planning Board must hold a public hearing within 30 days of the submittal of the Concept Plan;
- The public hearing be closed within 90 days of commencement of the hearing unless extended by mutual agreement of the parties.
- The Planning Board’s written decision would be completed 20 days from the close of the public hearing.
On February 6, the Applicant submitted a Concept Site Plan, Elevations and Floor Plans to the Planning Board. On February 25, the Applicant made a presentation to the Planning Board regarding the Concept Plan. The presentation can be found at the BXB on-demand website (February 25, 2019), at approximately the 1:30 timestamp.
Subsequently, the Applicant submitted an Application for a Special Permit for Alternate Access. The drawings associated with both applications (Site Plan Review and Special Permit for Alternate Access) are anticipated to be submitted to the Planning Board in late March. Given the time frame for review under the Remand Order, it is anticipated that the public hearing, which opened on February 25, would have to be closed by May 25, with a written decision by the Board to be completed sometime in June (unless the parties mutually agree to extend these time frames).
The date has been set for the parties to attend non-binding mediation. It will occur on Friday, September 28th at 10 AM and it will not be open to the public. The mediation firm is REBA Dispute Resolution, Inc. of Boston. Information about REBA Dispute Resolution is available at their website.
On September 13, 2018 the Priest Lane Neighbors filed a Motion to Intervene as Defendants. Priest Lane was proposed as one of two emergency access points for the project and several of the proposed units are within close proximity (the closest is 40 feet) of one of the Priest Lane residents’ property line. The Motion to Intervene by the Priest Lane Neighbors can be found here .
New: Boxborough Town Center, LLC opposed the Motion to Intervene on Sept 24 and on Sept 25, the Court issued an Order to Deny the Priest Lane Neighbors’ Motion to Intervene.
Should the parties not reach a settlement agreement during the mediation, they will proceed to litigation.
Donations Still Needed!
If you have been thinking about donating or have donated previously , SOTC still needs your financial contributions to continue our efforts to monitor the case, spread the word, investigate our legal options, and support the Planning Board’s denial. . Donate now and receive one of the remaining limited edition Save Our Town Center tote bags for contributions of $100 or more! Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how to donate.
As always, we thank you for your support!
The parties filed a Joint Status report to the judge in Land Court on July 20, 2018. The Joint Status report indicates that the parties have agreed to proceed to mediation. The Joint Status report can be found here.
It is important to note that mediation is non-binding and that it is possible that the parties may not reach a settlement agreement. The judge has indicated that the parties must file a joint report concerning the status of the mediation discussions every 30 days. The first report (due by August 24) will identify the name of the mediator and any and all dates scheduled for meetings with the mediator; subsequent reports will briefly describe the progress of the parties’ mediation efforts. If it is determined by the Court after September 24, 2018 that mediation will not succeed, the parties would proceed with litigation.
SOTC is continuing to raise funds to stay apprised of the litigation and we are continuing to explore our legal options to help the Planning Board defend itself in this case. The legal arguments submitted during the Planning Board hearings, funded by SOTC members, gave additional bases for the Planning Board to deny the Site Plan Application. Legal efforts can be costly. We need your donations to help us continue our efforts! Please contact us at email@example.com and we will let you know how you can easily donate.
SOTC will have a booth at the Boxborough Harvest Fair, which will be held on September 8 at Town Hall and the UCC Congregational Church on Middle Road. Please stop by and say hello and bring your checkbooks! We will be collecting donations to help us to continue to monitor the progress of the legal case and to explore our legal options to help defend the Planning Board preserve the original vision of Town Center!
Case Management Conference Held in Massachusetts Land Court
The first step in the litigation is the Case Management Conference which was held on June 25, 2018. Prior to the conference the parties submitted a Joint Statement, which outlined the case from the sides of both parties. You can access the Joint Statement on the Town’s website at http://www.boxborough-ma.gov/sites/boxboroughma/files/file/file/700_750_800_mass_ave_-_joint_case_management_statement_180626.pdf
The judge ordered the following:
- Applicants to submit a settlement offer to the Town by June 29.
- The Town is required to provide a response by July 13.
- The parties must submit a joint status report as to the potential for mediating the case by July 20.
- If the parties determine that they cannot mediate the case, they will begin the discovery process. Discovery would need to be completed by November 2.
- A telephone status conference is scheduled for November 15.
SOTC makes a presentation to the Board of Selectmen
SOTC (Save Our Town Center) made a presentation to the Board of Selectmen (Select Board) at their June 18, 2018 meeting, on the implications of the proposed project and the large amount of citizen opposition to it. SOTC requested that the BOS vigorously support the defense of the Planning Board’s Denial. Here is the summary we provided the Board.
Great turnout at Fifer’s Day Booth
We had a great turnout at Fifer’s Day and spoke to a lot of townspeople about the proposed development. There is a wide range of knowledge among residents about the project–some knew the Planning Board had denied the Site Plan Application but did not realize that the Applicant has appealed the denial and that the case is now in Land Court. Others did not know much about the project and were surprised to hear that construction of this development would mean the loss of any possibility of a real Town Center forever.
Please continue to talk to your neighbors and friends about this project. Check out this brief one page timeline of the project history in our Fifer’s Day Update
Fundraising is on-going!
For more information on how to donate, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Applicant files Appeal of Site Plan Decision
The Applicant filed an Appeal of the Planning Board’s Decision to Deny the Site Plan Application on May 21, 2018.
Planning Board Denies Plan for 100 Units of Age-Restricted Luxury Housing
On May 2, our Planning Board filed its formal written decision to deny the Site Plan Application for 700, 750 & 800 Mass. Avenue.
The Planning Board’s 21-page decision is available on the town web site at www.boxborough-ma.gov/planning-board under “Current Projects/Applications” or can be found here. The four Planning Board members who voted unanimously to deny came to their decision carefully, after 16 months of public hearings. (A fifth member of the board, an abutter, recused herself from participation.) Throughout the public hearing process, which was attended by a growing number of residents opposed to the size and density of the project, the Planning Board tried to reach a compromise with the applicants. Despite numerous requests from the Board—to consider various changes in size, density, and design—the applicants refused to modify the project.
The Planning Board’s May 2 decision cites nine criteria, which are documented in Section 8007 of the town’s Zoning Bylaw. The Board found that the proposed Site Plan Application failed to meet the requirements of all nine criteria:
- Does the proposal shall comply with the purpose and intent of the town’s Zoning Bylaw?
- Is the development integrated into the existing terrain, and does it protect abutting properties?
- Is the architectural style in harmony with the character and scale of buildings in the neighborhood?
- Are adequate measures proposed to prevent environmental impacts, such as pollution and erosion?
- Are roadways designed to promote convenience and safety for both pedestrians and vehicles?
- Are there adequate buffers to protect abutters from lighting, sight, sound, dust, and vibration?
- Are there adequate facilities for water supply and for disposal of waste and other by-products?
- Is there adequate access to each building for fire and service equipment?
- Do the buildings meet the architectural standards established for the Town Center District?
What happens next?
The applicants are expected to file an appeal within the 20-day appeal period, or by May 22. They have hired a Concord law firm that specializes in land-use litigation: Blatman, Bobrowski & Haverty LLC. The appeal will most likely be filed in Massachusetts Land Court and could take many months.
Boxborough is currently represented by KP Law, a Boston-based municipal law firm with a range of practice areas, including land use.
Citizens to Save Our Town Center (SOTC) will continue to monitor the progress of this project and post new information as it becomes available.
- The legal team hired by our community-funded group has submitted a second letter to support our claim that the Planning Board should deny the current site plan application, including examples of legal precedent for similar denial decisions in MA, that were upheld in court.
- The traffic and safety committee has compiled a detailed, research-backed letter that was submitted to the Planning Board to advocate for drastic changes to the existing proposed conditions that will not, as written, ensure the safety of anyone driving on 111/Mass Ave.
- We are fundraising! Check this blog post to learn why, and email us at fundraising@boxboroughtowncenter to learn more about how to help us support the Planning Board in their mandate to keep our town safe.
You can always join the ongoing discussion in our community Facebook group, or watch for updates on the Public ‘Neighbors of Boxborough’ page, where you can also join our email mailing list (email@example.com) for timely updates on meeting times and locations!
Want to help? We are still collecting funds to continue this important effort.
What is all the Fuss about?
The ‘Town Center’ zoned land that is bordered by 111 (Mass Ave), Stow Road and Burroughs Road, is currently under consideration, with plans submitted by “Boxborough Town Center LLC”, owned by developers Michael J. Jeanson and James D. Fenton and under agreement to sell to Toll Brothers (TOL), to build a private community of 100 densely packed senior housing units and a private recreation center. Toll Brothers are currently selling similar 55+ ‘luxury’ units in Stow, already under construction – but at a significantly lower density than proposed in Boxborough.
Currently only abutters are notified of public meetings, however we aim to bring the awareness of the plans and meetings to the general Boxborough population. We are NOT affiliated with Boxborough Town Center LLC, which is an LLC owned by the developers Fenton and Jeanson, and former Boxborough Selectman, John Lyons.
Why should you care?
The proposed density of housing has the potential to:
- Have an undetermined long-term impact on the aquifer
- Hijack the intended mixed-use development of our land that was voted to become our Town Center in 1989
- Increase the population of Boxborough by ~2-5%
- Add significant burden on essential town services (Fire, Police, Public Works)
- Increase traffic on Mass Ave, Burroughs Road and Stow Road (not far from Blanchard, the Library & Flerra Meadows)
- Create new road access to both 111 and Burroughs Rd (via Priest Lane)
- NOT address the need for affordable, ‘downsizing’ options for seniors
- Contribute an unknown amount of added light pollution to impact the local night sky
- May put an area of wetlands (flora and endangered fauna) at risk
- Expose the entire town to YEARS of widely-felt blasting and construction headaches
What do you need to know?
The applicants own the name ‘Boxborough Town Center, LLC’, but did not register the website domain – so we’re using this site to collect and disseminate public information about this development, the plans that have been filed, and the schedule of town committee meetings at which these plans have/will be discussed.
See our Blog for accounts of past meetings, links to video from public hearings, summary analyses of potential environmental impact, and our resources page for traffic and fiscal projection reports. More reports still to come!
What can you do?
Please check back here for information, share with your neighbors, and attend any public hearings or committee meetings to express your concerns. The Planning Board is comprised of elected officials, and they must take the concerns of their constituents into account during this process.
You can also join our closed Facebook group, which we are building into a Community awareness and interaction forum. We discuss the Town Center project, but also other events and issues of interest to Boxborough Residents. Please join us!
In addition to checking the agenda of Town Committee meetings