The February 1 article from the Item regarding the 1/24/19 Board of Appeals (BOA) hearing on the Goodridge Brook Estates
development is appended below.
It includes an update on the 12/27/18 plan changes as well as discussions of public safety, water supply, and ADA access issues.
The group's wetlands expert, Patrick Garner provided his initial assessment of environmental concerns for the proposed site.
Tom Christopher from the Conservation Commission re-stated his committees earlier concerns. Both concluded that the
Applicant's request for an environmental waiver should be denied.
Representative from two of the adjacent business expressed their concerns about the close location of the proposed
high-density housing next to their locations on Sterling Road.
Residents again expressed concerns about the demands upon the town's water supply. Once again a comprehensive impact
study and conditions on permitting were requested.
On the issues of environmental waiver and water system conditions, the BOA failed to take any constructive action.
By Ken Cleveland Item Correspondent
Posted Feb 1, 2019 at 3:01 AM
LANCASTER — Crescent Builders made some headway, even as more questions arose in its effort to win Board of Appeals (BOA) approval for the Goodridge Brook Estates affordable housing project proposed on Sterling Road.
Fire Chief Michael Hanson said last Thursday night the builder had addressed issues he had raised that morning, and by afternoon had new plans with changes, including sidewalks around two buildings, hydrants where Hanson wanted them and other provisions. At the BOA’s meeting that night, Hanson was told sidewalks would be put around the third building as well, a factor in improving access for firefighters should they need to respond to a fire at the three apartment buildings that are part of the plan.
But other parts of the comprehensive permit hearing process remain unresolved.
One key part is a list of waivers the builder is requesting, with BOA Chairman Jeanne Rich stressing there was no updated list for the board to act on.
Residents raised a number of concerns, including wetlands on the site, accessibility for the disabled, including whether elevators are required for the three-story buildings, and proximity to the town’s main industrial area and trucks carrying potentially hazardous materials.
Residents also brought up concerns about water pressure and the town’s water capacity, since water being drawn from the town wells is already above state permits; the permits build in an additional “buffer” intended for occasional high demand.
“The buffer is not meant to be permanent,” residents’ lawyer Dan Hill said.
Crescent Builders’ lawyer Paul Haverty said a requested fire flow test of water capacity and pressure does not need to be done during the permit process. “It is usually done before the building permit is issued.”
Resident Greg Jackson asked for more study of water capacity. He said pre-existing concerns need to be studied, adding that the water study submitted to the board by Haley and Ward had no recommendations for upgrades.
“It should say if it can accommodate this development. It’s not clear,” Jackson said. He said he’d like to see the applicant be responsible for any needed modifications and future adjustments.
“We don’t want to pick up the tab for this development with higher fees,” Jackson said.
Also unknown is the sewer solution, which requires an agreement with Clinton and the state on gaining access to sewer plant capacity by reducing water infiltration in the sewerage system.
“The project is somewhat of a moving target,” BOA lawyer Adam Costa said, noting the board “stands in the shoes of all local boards” when considering the comprehensive permit.
Under 40B, the state’s affordable housing statute, the state wetlands law is not modified, Costa said, adding, “the local bylaw aspect falls under the Board of Appeals.”
Haverty said wetlands areas had been delineated already.
“The lines are set in stone,” Haverty said. “The resource areas are firmly set.”
Wetlands expert Patrick Garner said he had concerns about building in wetland buffers, noting he had not walked the property, but based some of his assessments about potential vernal pools on viewing from the outside. He said any study should be done in the spring, from April to May, to capture seasonal activity.
Conservation Commission member Tom Christopher said his board would recommend any request for a waiver for environmental analysis be denied.
“There’s nearly 50 wooded acres,” Christopher said, “and 40 percent is wetland,” including an intermittent stream and areas of seasonal flooding. “The Conservation Commission would not allow any project to proceed without studies.”
Stressing the need to study what is there and on a proper time frame, Christopher said, “Once you kill off a species, it’s over.”
Rich said the board’s engineer had not done any type of wetlands review yet.
Lancaster Commission on Disability Chairman Michael McCue raised concerns about handicapped access, including parking.
Crescent Builders engineer Rob Truax detailed seven handicapped spaces on the plans, all with full van access, as well as the potential to add spaces, possibly by converting some of the van spaces, essentially two spaces wide, to regular handicapped spaces with a 5-foot access strip.
“We have space for expansion,” Truax said.
Responding to a statement that elevators were not necessary, McCue said the requirement (for an elevator) was 3,000 square feet on each floor — and each floor is 17,000 square feet. Haverty said he would have to double check that.
Businesses along Sterling Road noted they had contributed to getting a state economic development grant that funded upgrades to sewer lines along Sterling Road, with an eye toward expansion of industrial uses along the street.
But businesses expressed concerns about adding hundreds of residents along the road, including children, who could be tempted by industrial sites.
Robert Audlee, vice president and COO of Stainless Steel Coatings, questioned if new residents in the complex could oppose the businesses and expansion planned, despite the businesses having been there for decades before the residents moved in. Bestway has been there 30 years, and Stainless Steel Coating for 20 years.
Audlee said Stainless Steel Coating was looking at a 50 percent expansion that could end up being 100 percent, but other locations had expressed interest in having the business move there. The company wanted to stay in Lancaster, he said, but if businesses moved because of the development and political issues, Audlee said, it would remove substantial tax base in town since it is the only industrial area in town.
“It would be a significant tax hit,” Audlee said.
Bestway processes lumber and pressure-treated wood adjacent to the proposed site. An official stressed no one should be surprised what’s in the industrial area. But new residents “won’t know that till they’re there, and we will hear from the town. We have tried to be a good neighbor,” special projects manager Andrew Porter said.
“Plunking down hundreds of residents next to a fully active industrial facility 36 feet away, it’s going to lead to problems,” Porter said.
Truax updated the board on changes made in December, including dropping the single-family homes from 62 to 56 (28 three-bedroom and 28 four-bedroom units), with no houses directly on Sterling Road. Apartments were reduced from 120 to 96, removing the top floor of the three apartment buildings (apartments now include 19 one-bedroom, 67 two-bedroom, and 10 three-bedroom units). In addition, roads were widened to 24 feet, and the complex now has 196 parking spaces, each 9 by 20 feet, with a total of seven handicapped spaces, raising spaces per unit over two.
“We recognize the changes are an improvement, a step in the right direction. We need a giant leap,” Hill said, adding “This project is incompatible with adjacent uses.”
The BOA plans to meet again Feb. 28; without any further extensions, the March meeting could be the last under the 180-day timeline allowed for the comprehensive permit process, unless developer Iqbal Ali allows another extension. He already restarted the clock once and gave a two-month extension.
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