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Board will recommend zoning changes.

Byline: Michael Kane

BOYLSTON - The Planning Board last week voted to recommend a series of rezoning articles on the May 3 town meeting warrant. The board also voted to recommend one change to the map proposed by consultants hired last year by the Board of Selectmen.

Planning Board member Raymond Duffy suggested removing a group of parcels on the corner of East Temple and Shrewsbury (Route 140) streets from the new mixed use industrial district. The change, if approved at town meeting, would leave the parcels as residentially zoned.

Duffy said the parcels share one common access, and are not accessible from Route 140. In addition, Duffy noted that solid waste facilities cannot be denied under the new zoning, leaving the chance that the abutters could have such a business in their neighborhood.

That change is not automatic, according to Town Administrator Nancy Colbert Puff. Either the Planning Board or a resident will now have to make a motion to amend the zoning article on the floor of town meeting.

After the Planning Board meeting, Moderator Dennis Pojani said he sees no issue with accepting such an amendment, because the amendment would take away from an advertised zoning article, not change or add to the language. However, he said he would consult town counsel before town meeting.

Overall, Puff said the goal is to update the town's zoning to both give the Planning Board more flexibility and so that developers know what to expect when they come to town.

One example, she noted, is the current parking requirements. Because they are based on total square footage, and not use, some businesses are required to have many more spaces than they will use. An example would be a bank, which has frequent turnover, or, in a manufacturing example, the new Phillips Precision building, Puff said.

"They were required to have many more spaces than they will ever use," Puff said.

Cathy Phillips acknowledged Puff's explanation, saying the amount of paved surface required for the new building required a smaller building (and manufacturing space) than the Phillips family initially wanted. In addition, the plant now has a row of spaces that currently go unused.

Consultant Mark Bobrowski said the new regulations will also give the Planning Board the ability to negotiate shared parking on parcels that might see mixed usage. For example, a restaurant that might see business increased at night on the same parcel as a doctor's office that will see most of its traffic during the day would not require a "concrete jungle."

Other changes give the Planning Board much more say over aesthetics, like screening of trash compactors, noise, lighting, landscaping and traffic egresses. Over the long-term development of the corridor, this is particularly important during the first few projects, Bobrowski said, because subsequent developers will follow the standards set by the earlier buildings and site work.

"You can't get Cabot, Cabot and Ford if your first tenant is Sanford and Son," he said.

Other changes will make the Planning Board, not the building inspector, the primary contact for developers, which is common practice, Bobrowski said.

Duffy credited the zoning proposal, noting a comprehensive study of Route 140 has been discussed by the Planning Board for decades. However, the money was never made available to do the study.

The money for this study came from a state grant that was made available after town meeting accepted the rules for expedited permitting pushed by the Romney administration. Those grants are no longer available, Bobrowski said.

Given the Planning Board set criteria by which to make rulings can work for the town in court, Bobrowski said.

Part of the proposed zoning bylaws is a list of six criteria for special permits. They include: adequacy of public services, traffic flow and safety, community needs served by the project and neighborhood character and social structures.

In one town Bobrowski is familiar with, he said the Planning Board refused to allow a liquor store in a strip mall that also housed a daycare center. The town was sued, but won in court based on the criteria used in the denial.

"These are valuable tools you can use to control the destiny (of Route 140)," Bobrowski said.

Bobrowski said the changes are written to control development, not prevent it. They will allow developers and the town to negotiate deals that allow businesses to make money, while the town retains its character, he said.

"It's not a rewrite by people to stop growth," he said. "It's a nice balance. It's good for business and it gives the town power (to control development)."
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Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:Apr 15, 2010
Words:766
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