From last week’s Newsletter: Why DIRT is what matters

For those who don’t receive our email newsletters, here’s a blog version of our explanation of the core of the letter our Legal team submitted to the Planning Board on 11/27.

(In the meantime, we are still raising money and have commissioned a second letter from McGregor and Legere. You can read it here, and I’ll blog again soon to summarize what they found. In a nutshell, there are many examples of Massachusetts Planning Boards denying applications similar to what has been proposed by Fenton/Jeanson/Toll, and those denials were upheld in court. All of this underscores our demand to DENY the current site plan application.)

Basically, we paid for legal advice, and were told: “It’s all about the ‘dirt’.”

In this post, we have updates on the following:

I. A lay-summary of the Legal case to Deny of the project, as presented on 11/27 by the community-retained legal team of McGregor and Legere.
II. A brief explanation of why we went this route, and why the Planning Board didn’t find this information on their own.
III. How to contribute to our ongoing Community Fundraising.

Before we explain why Dirt is the deciding factor in Massachusetts, we want to put this message front and center.

We are raising money to Support the Planning Board, under the philosophy that it is better to Spend Now, rather than Pay Later.

To clarify, in bullet point form:
We support the Planning Board. We feel that, as part of their deliberation, they need all available, professional material that informs their decision, and demonstrates the community’s position on this proposal. The material we provide is entered into the public record, and is useable in their defense if their decision is challenged in court.
– We believe there is a strong legal argument to support a Denial decision. 
– We will not be put off, shouted down, negotiated out, or overpowered by insiders or outsiders who chose to put profit over safety and/or the needs of our Community.
We are here to stay, and we will support our Planning Board in their efforts to uphold the intention of our by-laws, and the 2030 vision of our hometown.

Our research indicates that by investing in experienced legal research and professional expert analyses now, we will provide the Planning Board with a defensible position to Deny the current proposal. By doing so, we protect the safety of our roads, the rural nature of our community, and the potential for the Town Center that was voted for by us, decades ago.

If you are willing to invest in our Town in the ‘now’ to avoid the future we fear is coming, please contact us at fundraising@boxboroughtowncenter.org.

 

I. What is the Legal case for Denial?

Let’s get back to the Dirt. As our attorney presented last week, there are numerous legal reasons why a Denial is not only justified, but the responsible outcome based on the current site plan.

Remember when we were wondering about why the 2012 subdivision plan (for a couple of buildings), entitled the developers to an 8 year zoning freeze?

It turns out, Massachusetts offers this level of protection so that landowners don’t face a constantly changing landscape of bylaws after they initiate a building project. (I don’t object to this, to be honest – it seems quite reasonable to me. I’ve always said that I am not anti-development, but that I object to the mis-use of the intent of our zoning by-laws.)

So, in this case, when the applicant’s subdivision plan was approved in 2013, they earned an 8 year window during which they can update or expand their proposal to use the land delineated on their approved map according to the 2012 by-laws. In other words, the dirt within their defined plot of land still thinks that it is 2012, even though the zoning by-laws changed a matter of days after they first submitted their proposal.

BUT the site plan application, as currently proposed, hinges on the use of additional parcels of land that are OUTSIDE the ‘protected dirt’.

Specifically, the applicants have a Purchase and Sale agreement to buy this extra land (‘Parcel A’), but this ‘dirt’ does not enjoy the zoning freeze, and thus must be held to the current zoning by-laws. The current site plan shows existing wells, which can be considered ‘accessory structures’ which are so close to the property line that they do not satisfy 2012 setback by-laws.

Additionally, even if the wells were positioned far enough from the property line, the ‘sphere of influence’ of those wells (ie, the land from which groundwater is drawn to feed the well) falls onto the land in Parcel A – which again, is ‘unprotected dirt’, and therefore requires a special permit.

There are other legal reasons to Deny in the letter, too – both from safety and water / environment protection angles.

But for the sake of brevity (ha!), let’s shift the discussion to the question on everyone’s mind. Indeed, it is this question that I’ve been asking myself since January – and also the reason why we, as a group, have waited this long to retain professional legal input.

II. Shouldn’t Town Counsel have found this answer, themselves? 

Why did WE have to go to Boston, collect funds from local residents, and spend a lot of money to learn what seems just so simple – right?  Does that mean we are just throwing out a red herring, or distraction? Nope.

What has finally become clear, after directing many questions to the Town Planner, the Town Administrator, the Planning Board members, and both current and former BoS elected officials, is that:

a) The Planning Board doesn’t have a mandate to ask Town Counsel anything. (Let that sink in, a bit… in terms of what that means for any development that is proposed to the Planning Board. ?!)

b) The Planning Board can request the Town Administrator to direct Town Counsel to answer specific questions, but not to perform an all-encompassing Site Plan review.

c) The Planning Board has been allowed less to spend on legal and expert analyses performed on this project in the last 11 months than we, as a group of 29 citizens, spent on only 2 weeks of legal aid.

In lay terms, I think of it this way:

The Planning Board can only direct specific, focused questions to Town Counsel. The Planning Board members are elected officials, but are essentially inexperienced citizens, volunteering a ton of time in service to our town.

They do not know which stones remain unturned, since they do not know which stones to even look under. 

They don’t know what they don’t know.

McGregor and Legere have been investigating proposals like these, in communities like ours, for years. They knew where to look, and what to look for.

So, in the end, it isn’t that surprising that they found something that is durably, legally, justifiably valid that the Planning Board missed.

III. What can I do?

It’s pretty simple – and for those of you who’ve been listening to me for virtually all of 2017, it will sound pretty familiar, too:

1. Tell your neighbors. I’m shocked how many people in town still don’t know what is going on.

2. Write to the Beacon – they will publish letters from the public, and would likely LOVE to hear from someone other than those of us who keep pestering them with Correspondence.

 

3. Support our legal efforts – And here, we come back full circle. We don’t want to spend extra money when we all pay taxes and expect that those funds are being used to defend our by-laws and our elected officials – not to mention the decisions we vote on as a community, such as the Town Center zoning and the Boxborough 2030 plan.

BUT

If there are political lines of red tape that somehow prevent the Planning Board from obtaining the information they need to make an informed decision, we will be poised to fill in the gaps.

We will not sit by and let commercial interests trump the needs of the community. We will collect funds, and be available to find and hire experts, and provide professional data as needed. 

We’d love to have your help – and we thank the growing number of neighbors who are adding to our ‘war chest’. We hope we can just hold it in reserve, but in the short term, we want to make sure that what has already been spent on retaining McGregor and Legere is not lost in the shuffle. Their legal expertise is inarguable – as is their case for DENIAL. 

 

Public Hearing – LIBRARY, tonight!!

Hi – I think you all know by now, but we really want to have a great showing of support this evening.

I can promise some EXCITING news – so please join us, and come early to get seats.

We’ll be online on Facebook, too – likely in the Neighbors of Boxborough page. But we really need bodies in the room!

see you very soon!

Town Center plus a Solar Farm – 2 days and counting!

We didn’t make it into Action Unlimited this week, but they did publish our announcement for the 11/20 meeting – all the text is still relevant, so I’m highlighting it here.

I know it was frustrating in the extreme to make plans (and recruit neighbors!) to attend last week’s aborted Public Hearing – but that just makes it MORE important that we do everything possible to fill the room on Monday night!

Come hear about Conditions – and some NEW research from your community!

Sargent Memorial Library – the estimated start time is 8:20pm, but we’d love to have the room filled *before* the official start time at 7:30.

The earlier discussion will also be of interest, in fact – did you know there is a proposal to put in a large-scale Solar Farm on old Cisco property? It’s a tricky debate – clear a LOT of trees to make way for (commercial / for-profit) clean energy. Public input is welcome and encouraged on this project, too!

(EDIT – the Solar farm is NOT on the 11/27 agenda, but will be on the schedule on December 18th. There is a great commentary posted by a resident on the Environmental Council who is supporting this proposal. Please read her rationale if you’d like to learn more!)

Enjoy the weekend, but please join us Monday night.

 

‘Elderly Housing’ – What’s in a name?

So, by now you likely all know that the last Public Hearing was cancelled at the last minute. The Beacon covered it earlier this week, actually, though I think they missed one point, in that the Applicants *did* make a request to the Planning Board to issue a continuance… ie, it wasn’t just the Planning Board’s idea.

Nonetheless, the Beacon article sparked a discussion in the Facebook group that raised an interesting point. Namely, much of the coverage in the media has been referring to this proposed development as ‘Elderly’ housing. Which made one community member comment whether it was reasonable to call a 55+ development ‘elderly’? I mean, even the ‘Senior’ housing label feels like a stretch, given how our population is aging, and that 50% of 64 year olds are still working full time.

Let’s consider a few things, like ‘Who Can Live Here?’, and ‘Senior Occupancy vs Ownership’, and ‘Benefits of Intergenerational Programs’:

Who can live here?

A few Hearings have covered the question of what ages will be permitted to live in these homes, and also how those age restrictions will be enforced.

Thus far, the best answers I’ve heard have been that at least 1 person over 55 must live in the home, and no one under 18 can live in the home for longer than a ‘visit’.

This latter condition was included in order to minimize the cost to the Town by way of limiting increased demand for services (ie school enrollment). In stark contrast, there is a whole Fiscal Impact Assessment that was submitted by the applicants earlier this year that makes a case for why the homes will bring more tax benefit than burden to Boxborough.

It is a great read… but I confess I ‘snorted’ a few times when I reviewed it. Especially the contradictory sections

Text from the Applicant’s Fiscal Impact Analysis

where the applicants claim that the occupants will not create much traffic, since 55+ retired residents don’t drive during rush hour – BUT the residents will bring a huge amount of disposable income (since the majority of them will be younger than average retirement age). Oh, and all that extra income they have to spend? It will remain in town, when spent in local businesses such as grocery stores and restaurants. Ha! Glad their data is so relevant to our community.

Occupancy vs Ownership:

One other interesting point was raised back in March, regarding whether the Planning Board has the authority to require that the age-restriction is applied at the level of occupancy versus ownership. In other words, if it were the former, the 55+ occupant could live in the home even if someone else (an adult child, perhaps) bought and owned the $550,000+ property.

What I haven’t heard a great answer for, to date, is what happens when/if the 55+ occupant moves (perhaps to a senior care facility?), or dies. Would the under 55 owner of the property be forced to sell? The unknowns surrounding this question may be behind the recent draft Condition that requires the age-based deed restriction to be Owner-defined, rather than just based on the age of the occupants. Notably, the representative from Toll Brothers expressed a strong dislike for this condition, when it was raised back in the spring. Presumably the smaller ‘buyer pool’ could have a negative impact on initial property sales?

Benefits of Intergenerational Spaces & Programs:

One other ‘food for thought’ point I’d like to add to the conversation is that I’ve been reading more and more lately about the value of ‘Intergenerational Programs’. Put simply, this is the growing practice of creating spaces and programming that bring children together with seniors. A quick google search on the topic finds an article in ForbesIntergenerational programs: Not just Nice, but Necessary“, and a link to Bridges Together, “the only organization in New England – and one of a few in the United States – devoted to training others to implement successful and meaningful intergenerational programs.”

Personally, I find these sorts of programs incredibly compelling – there’s a great blog post how these efforts combat the social isolation that comes with aging from a Boston-based senior advocacy group. And, quite honestly, this idea is why I was looking forward to the idea of a mixed-use Town Center, in the first place. A central location that combined senior housing with walkable services and gathering spaces seems exactly what our aging population needs.

Ok – I’ll leave it there for now. But I’d love for this discussion to be picked up at the Public Hearing on Monday! (8:20 pm at the Library).

By George, I think they’re LISTENING!

Well, I confess that ‘real life’ got in the way of my best intentions, today. I had hoped to put together a detailed overview of the Draft Conditions (available here) that were distributed at the (not quite) Public Hearing last night, but ran out of time.

That said, I don’t want to keep you all in suspense, so I’ve prepared a ‘quick and dirty’ list of the things that caught my eye.

I encourage you to read through the whole document yourselves; you may be surprised to find the substance of your own comments reflected in what is being considered. From my point of view, I see a LOT of what I’ve heard brought up at Public Hearings to date – by the Public.

In other words, the Planning Board really have been hearing us, and this document shows that our letters, comments, petitions, and requests MATTER.

Nice feeling, isn’t it? 🙂

So, to sum up:

These Draft Conditions were prepared by consultants at the request of the Planning Board, and were informed / guided by input from the Board as well as the Town Planner.

They were provided – for the first time – to the PB, the Town Planner, the Applicants, and the Public at the Planning Board meeting last night (11/20). The Public Hearing component of that meeting (with respect to the Town Center development) was granted a continuance (at the request of the applicants) because the Applicants had not had any time to review the document in advance, and because Town Counsel was not available to attend the Hearing to provide their comments on the Draft Conditions.

The postponed Public Hearing was rescheduled to Monday, 11/27 at Sargent Memorial Library, and has been given an estimated time of 8:20 (actual start time of the meeting is 7:30).

At that meeting, this list of Draft Conditions will be discussed – presumably one by one – by the Planning Board, the Applicants, the Town’s Counsel team – and YOU.

It is unclear how the Public comment component will be organized for this discussion, but if we find out more in advance, please sign up for our various newsletters so we can keep you posted.

(Important note – these are NOT final Conditions, but drafts – and will require both legal and public feedback before being revised and deliberated by the Planning Board at the close of the Public Hearing. Your input may well influence the final outcome. Please don’t miss that opportunity to play an active role!) 

Finally – we continue to see a building of momentum in terms of local interest  / traffic to the website and Facebook groups. As someone pointed out to me, we’ve had more page views in the last 2 days than there were residents present for the most recent Town Meeting’s best day. Not too shabby!

I will have more updates as the week progresses – particularly regarding the question on many minds: Can the Planning Board still DENY to issue a Site Plan Approval?

But in the meantime, we wish everyone a Happy Thanksgiving. No matter what happens with respect to this development, I think it is very safe to say that we ALL have much to be thankful for, and being a part of this community is certainly one of the top items on my list this year.

<3

 

Want to be ‘the first to hear’?

Good morning!

We are all working on wrapping our heads around everything that happened last night, and will get a summary description post done asap.

HOWEVER, one thing we learned is that there are still a lot of people who plan to attend these Hearings who aren’t on our various mailing lists, or who are missing email notifications that get shunted into ‘spam’ or ‘promotions’ folders.

We have several methods to make sure you are updated in ‘real-time’:

  1. Scroll to the bottom of our homepage, or click here to reach us in 2 ways: a) send an email via ‘hello@boxboroughtowncenter.org’, or b) sign up for the newsletter listAdding yourself to this list via the website also means that you will receive an email when a new blog post is published.
  2. You can also join our email mailing list via the public Facebook page, Neighbors of Boxborough
  3. Note – for email mailings, we’ve started using a free service that makes it easy for you to ‘unsubscribe’. The catch is that the emails come from ‘Boxborough Town Center’, rather from either of us, as individuals. Thus, you need to check your spam and promotions folders, and add the email to your contact list. 
  4. You can ask to join our closed Facebook group – just for Boxborough community members. We mostly talk about the Town Center project, but we also share notices about other development projects in town, road closings, and community-related events / public service announcements. It is a friendly place, and a fun way to ‘meet’ neighbors.
  5. You can join nextdoor.com – which is basically everything I just described about our community Facebook group, but also has other topics like classified ads, recommendations of local services, notifications about lost pets, etc. I find it very handy, and the Boxborough population has grown recently to over 550 people!

So, if you follow any of these steps, you will be amongst the first to know about any upcoming meetings – and especially about time / date changes… since it seems they have been happening a LOT (often right when we have a large turnout planned…. some say coincidence, but – well, you should decide for yourself).

Running scared? The Developers cancelled tonight’s meeting!!

Dear all,

Well – our wave of support & interest may have thrown a bit of a wrench into things today.

In theory, in just a few short hours, a large portion of our community was supposed to gather  to hear the Planning Board present – for the first time – its drafted set of Conditions upon which it may accept the submitted proposal to build a private development of 100 new homes on the parcel of land that was intended to become a shared, mixed-use Town Center for all.

However, at the 11th hour (again!), the applicants have indicated that they will request a continuance this evening, since the Planning Board did not provide them with an advance copy of the draft Conditions.

Those Conditions were to be reviewed in front of Town Counsel, who had to cancel their appearance tonight due to a family member’s death.

(Side note – in the last 10 months, at the majority of these Hearings, the applicants have brought ‘new material’ to the Planning Board – without giving them any time to read it in advance. I can’t for the life of me see why the Planning Board couldn’t present their draft Conditions tonight in person, even without Town Counsel present. Seems like a convenient excuse to me – one that smells like something straight out of a ‘how to break a community’s momentum’ play book… no?)

So, a number of us will be sure to attend this evening to push for a pubic continuance – ideally with as much notice as possible, given the scheduling changes that were already made by many to attend the meeting tonight! – and we will circle back to let you know when that next Hearing will be held.

(If anyone would like to join us, feel free! We can even move the ‘meeting’ to a different public place if we can answer any of your questions, or if you’d like to meet some neighbors with related concerns)

That said, I’ll just leave you with this illustration of just how engaged we have all become, at least based on our website traffic this weekend.

As you can see – and the pattern is consistent in the volume of Facebook discussion in both the closed and public groups – there is a large and growing groundswell of interest and objection amongst community members.

We have not given up.

We will NOT give up.

We will not accept this proposal as a matter of attrition.

Thank you for sticking with us in this – even in the face of what feel like sneaky corporate maneuvering!

Yours in community,

Heather, Wes, and so many of your neighbors.

Nov 20th – Does it really matter if I’m there?

Yes.

Yes, it does matter. Oh – and I have a plan.

(skip to the end to read the Plan, unless you need to read the rest for a recap and/or compelling reasons as to why you should come on Monday night…)

So, here’s the thing, as I just posted in our Facebook group, it is truly important that you (yes, you!) come to join the Public Hearing on Monday (8pm – or earlier, to get a good seat! – at the BCC, 30 Middle Road).

Why?

Well, yes – I know why many of you have stopped attending in person (the Facebook live coverage is great, tho – right?), or have felt all along that the community voice was meaningless. That there seemed to be no hope to stop, or even curtail the development efforts of a deep-pocketed team like Fenton&Jeanson (and the Toll Bros partners).

But the thing is, we’ve learned from other communities that a concerted, determined, vocal, informed, and coordinated group of citizens CAN impact the outcome of these projects.

We’ve heard about ‘failures’, too – even here locally, where (small) groups of residents have banded together to try to derail a project that impacted their neighborhood. Yet, even with significant cost of time & money, these efforts saw no positive influence, in the end.  I can imagine how discouraging that would feel.

The Town Center project is different. Remember this map? It shows that we are not just a “collection of a few abutters”. From what I hear, the only other time we had this wide-spread objection to a proposed development was when a Casino was slated to be built near 495.

That is the class of objection we are dealing with here. But, if the Planning Board only sees that we were upset, and that only a fraction of us are still hanging on at the Public Hearings, they will enter into their 30 day deliberation period feeling as though the Town gave up their concerns and objections. Or that we think they should just set some standard conditions and hope that the building inspection team keeps the project ‘on plan’.

Instead, let’s show them we DO care. We care a LOT.

We care that the construction & blasting is going to disrupt our lives. Risk damage to our homes. Traumatize our pets. Scare our kids. Endanger our water supply. Destroy our roads. Delay our commutes.

We care that the addition of 100 multi-story homes – built within an arms length of each other – will add a significant burden to our Town’s services budget, with only a fraction of the promised benefit to our community.

We care that the Town voted to build a Multiuse Town Center, with a Green for gathering, with Services for our seniors, with Retail shops to keep our spending local in our community – and yet what we’re getting instead is a Private, Gated, Luxury development that none of us can access – not even to walk our dogs, or for our kids to travel safely from 111 to their homes on Priest Lane and beyond… though we will be able to admire their exclusive-use Pool and Recreation Complex from our main road.

We care that the 200 cars operated by the senior drivers that live in these homes will all be trying to enter and exit onto that busy main road – at a blind intersection that our own Police Chief finds objectionably dangerous.

We care that the Boxborough we live in – by choice and/or by heritage – is a Rural, Engaged Community for All.  Our 2030 Vision plan does NOT look like what is being proposed.

And We CARE that the only reason we are even having this discussion is because of a horrible, unintended mis-wording of an outdated by-law. It is so unimaginably wrong that it would be comical, if it wasn’t so real in terms of its permanent implications and negative impact on our Town.

So – Yes. It does matter that you come, and join us on Monday for what may well be the last Public Hearing on this project.

Please, let us send the Planning Board into their deliberations with Zero reservations about the community’s level of commitment to their opposition to this ‘Town Center’ proposal.

Oh, and the PLAN I mentioned? Well, there are a few parts to it – some of which will be clear when you arrive on Monday night. But the part YOU can play is this:

Stand for what you agree with. Stand for what you believe in.

What that means, is that we’ve all heard – over and over – that the Planning Board can only listen to new comments & questions. The community as a whole has actually sent so many letters and comments, the physical file on this project is enormous. But I’m worried how the Planning Board will be able to parse through it all, now.

So, here’s my idea. Think of it like a ‘closing argument’ on one of the legal shows on Prime Time television. On Monday – If someone gets up and makes a statement that resonates with you – don’t just applaud when they are done. Stand Up.

Show the Planning Board ,”I agree”, by silently standing any time you agree. That will give them a highly visible emphasis that none of us is alone in our thoughts, feelings, worries, and objections.

Let’s speak with one voice – even if only one of us is allowed to be heard. 

Thank you. See you Monday night.

Traffic Detour – see you this weekend!

Greetings, Community –

With the construction planned this weekend on 111 / Mass Ave, all traffic will be routed onto Stow/Burroughs Road or Middle Road @ the Town Hall.

This offers a great chance for residents to ‘see’ where the planned 100 new houses will be built (and also get a taste for what traffic on and off these intersections may look like, in that future).

So, watch for my new signs, and feel free to slow down and peek up and out your window as you pass by. Up above the few houses is where all the new condos will be built.

(After an estimated 5 years of blasting, construction, and 25,000 cubic yards of earth removal, aka 2500 truck trips on our roads, each weighing ~75000 lb. Gee, I wonder what condition Stow and Burroughs Roads will be in after that. Not to mention Priest Lane… if the trucks can even navigate that hill in the first place, of course.)

Yeah. I love this whole plan. 😐

Hope to see you at the Planning Board Public Hearing on Monday 11/20. I’ll have more blog posts and a newsletter coming out over the next few days to help you get ready.

 

Oct 11 Newsletter: Public Hearing remains open; PB considering ‘conditions’

The next Public Hearing will be held at 30 Middle Road (across from Town Hall) on Monday, October 16th, at 8:15pm. The Planning Board starts at 7:30, but this issue will be opened at 8:15pm.

A new, public Facebook group has been launched since 10/2, and we will start broadcasting the Hearings via Facebook Live in this location (i.e., you will not have to be a member of the closed BTC group to see the videos either in real time, or the archived version after-the-fact).

While I am thrilled that technology allows us to provide this option for community members to view the proceedings without attending in person, I also firmly believe that it is VERY important to have a strong in-person showing at the Hearings. Thus far, we have not been able to specifically ask questions on behalf of those people ‘watching at home’, and the sound isn’t always great.

If you can possibly make it in person, please come. There were plenty of seats available last week.

A few highlights from the 10/2 meeting (which can be viewed in the closed FB group, with comments that have been timestamped with notes about when various topics are being discussed. There was also a short article covered in the Beacon.):

  • The Chair spent a great deal of time reading from the 2012 by-laws, to highlight sections of the existing code that pertain to the application at hand. The inference from the audience is that he wanted to draw attention to the fact that the PB’s decision (and any conditions they place on a possible approval) will and must be guided by these by-laws. There was a lot of attention paid to concerns about safety.
  • Both the Fire and Police chiefs were present to field questions from both the PB and the public. Many of these questions had to do with blasting, and also with traffic on 111. The Fire Chief’s stance seemed to be largely “blasting has happened in town before, and we’ll handle it again just fine” (though he did acknowledge that he had NOT explored the extent of blasting that is anticipated for the current application), whereas the Police Chief took a largely opposite stance re his area of purview, namely that he “wanted to learn from past mistakes that had been made in Town, so as to ensure the safety of all, and minimize expense to the Town’s Public Works, in the design and implementation of this proposal”. i.e., The Fire Chief’s approach felt very ‘retrospective’ and ‘reactive’, whereas the Police Chief’s struck me as pro-active and prospective. Very disappointing and refreshing, respectively, in equal measures.
  • The Toll Brothers’ representative presented their estimates that 25,000 cubic yards of blasting was anticipated. I used this statement as an opportunity to present the PB with my 3D model of the topography of the area in question, to highlight just how much elevation would need to be removed to achieve the <5% grade that is required by the State for Senior housing developments. James Fenton suggested that the existing site plan did take that original topography into account, and directed us to pages 16-23 to see the profiles of the roads they are planning. I have tried to interpret the drawings and find them very hard to interpret, I may go into Town Hall to ask for Adam to help me read them.
  • There was a LONG debate between the developers, their lawyers, and the Planning Board regarding whether and what and when the details of the Purchase and Sale agreement between the current applicants and Toll Brothers would be made available to the Town. The boiled down version is that it likely won’t become public until after the property has been transferred to Toll – presumably not until Toll is ready to break ground (according to Mr Ballard). This decision seemed largely determined by the lawyers, despite the applicants having offered to provide this information at the previous Public Hearing. The Planning Board’s interest appeared to be based on reservations as to whether any conditional agreements being extended to the current applicants would be carried out / honored by the soon-to-be-owners, Toll Brothers. A resident raised a concern based on a recent (and ongoing) lawsuit in nearby Belmont, that alleges that Toll refused to honor a previous agreement with the Town to cover environmental expenses related to a new development, and instead pushed a multi-million dollar price tag back to the Town. Personally, I believe there are still some very important open questions at hand. I will watch to see if this discussion is resumed on Monday.
  • A great deal of discussion was also focused on the question of safe turning and stopping distances (and sight lines) at the proposed entrance onto 111. The Police Chief acknowledged that he is not a trained expert in this form of traffic engineering, but that one of his officers did have this specialist knowledge. (I did post a short video of the road from this location in the Facebook group on 9/27) The Planning Board decided to arrange to meet with this expert (or possibly another consultant – I wasn’t quite sure with whom they ended up deciding to meet), and to avoid needing to make it an open public meeting, they would meet in pairs with the consultant in question, to stand at the site of the new roadway. They offered to try to photograph that meeting, and also to pass along any questions that were submitted to the Planning Board in advance (via contact with Adam, the Town Planner). I am not sure if that meeting has been scheduled yet, but if you have any questions you would like to see included in that discussion, please direct them to Adam (aduchesneau@boxborough-ma.gov) asap.
  • Finally, the PB Chair made it clear that he intended to be a bit unconventional as to when he would close the Public Hearing component of the application. He said that while the Board is not yet ready to vote on their final decision on the proposed development site plan, they would start to shift into a phase in which they would consider possible ‘conditions’ that would be counter-proposed to the applicants and attached to a potential approval of their plan. Normally, that phase of consideration would be done in a public space – i.e., could be *observed* by the public, but not open for comment from residents. Instead, the Chair prefers to conduct that phase with the Public Hearing still open, so that we can contribute to the discussion before a set of potential conditions is finalized. The chair also encouraged residents to pass along any requests or input on that condition-setting process to the PB, again, via Adam.

This is good time to stress that while the Planning Board is considering possible conditions, that does NOT mean that they have committed to voting to approve this current proposal (with or without conditions). They may determine that they have grounds to deny the application (as has been encouraged by over 300 Boxborough residents, in a survey that was submitted to the Board last week), but that possible denial would have to be based either in an interpreted mis-use of the 2012 zoning by-laws, OR as Adam indicated back this spring if:

“A Site Plan where, although proper in form, may be so intrusive on the needs of the public in one regulated aspect or another that rejection by the Planning Board would be tenable. This would typically be a case in which, despite best efforts, no form of reasonable conditions could be devised to satisfy the problem with the plan.” 

Hence, it is an important stage of the process for the PB to ascertain whether any suitable conditions can be arrived at that suit both the applicants and the PB (representing the good of the town).

Finally, as mentioned above, we have a new public Facebook group where we will share news and updates (events, Live videos, opportunities to volunteer, etc) of interest to the entire community – and also beyond Boxborough. The existing Boxborough Town Center Facebook group will remain an active place for brainstorming about possible community actions surrounding the current proposal. We will also continue to update the website, and send periodic (but not too frequent!) email updates. Those email newsletters have also been archived , and starting next week will be sent using an email distribution program that will make it easier to format the messages in a visually-comfortable way, and also for recipients to ‘unsubscribe’, if they so choose.

The last thing that I will leave you with is a note about how encouraged i am to see the recent growth in both the number of residents who are actively involved in helping to raise awareness and objection to this proposal, but also the lengths to which these neighbors are going to make a difference.

Back in February, there were two households of abutters who got together to seek out ways to engage and inform the Town. Now, almost 8000 website views, 230 Facebook group members, over 6000 flyers delivered, over 1500 digital and in-person Public Hearing attendees, and 100 red signs around town later, we have an engaged community who are clearly invested in informing the Planning Board that they are NOT fighting a simple ‘not in my yard’ battle, but rather that this is a matter of principle, and of what is (and isn’t) right for *our Town*.

Please, continue to stay informed. Attend the Hearings to have your voice heard. Share your ideas with the Planning Board and your neighbors. 

Also, there are other meetings that are important to follow, and hopefully attend. For example, tomorrow (10/12), the Housing Board will discuss this proposal as their first item of business at 7:30pm (Town Hall).

We are also asking the BoS to weigh in. To date, they have failed to provide comments to the Town Planner to use in his Staff report (which, btw, is a great summary of the property, and the Town Planners first draft of proposed conditions), whereas other relevant Boards and Committees in town have shared their assessments.

Let’s hold on to what our community voted for in 1989. And if that isn’t possible, for logical, fact-based reasons… then why would a dense, luxury housing development be a better choice?