By Justin Saglio
Northborough – Fearful of increased traffic in town, the Northborough Board of Selectmen voted unanimously at its meeting June 13 to send a letter to state planners requesting that 500 residences not be built on the site of the former Westborough State Hospital.
The site, approximately 108 acres, straddles Westborough and Northborough, with the majority of the land in Westborough. The property, which is owned by the state, was closed in 2010.
The one-page letter will be sent to Division of Capital Asset Management Commissioner Carole Cornelison. It cites an increase in road traffic as a concern for Northborough and asks Cornelison to seek alternatives.
“We believe the traffic implications of 500 new residential units will create a significant burden on Northborough's roadways and intersections,” a draft of the letter reads.
Westborough selectmen sent a similar letter to Cornelison in April, asking for an alternative to the state's proposal of building 500 condominiums on the land formerly occupied by the Westborough State Hospital and adjacent Chauncy Hall.
Projected to close in the spring of 2012, Chauncy Hall currently provides children suffering from mental health issues with rehabilitation services. The state will be providing the center with new facilities at the Worcester State Hospital, according to Maria Tebeau, program director for Chauncy Hall.
Creation of recreational fields on the Chauncy Hall site and a reevaluation of which buildings should be preserved due to their historical significance are among the alternatives proposed in the letter.
“By being able to decrease the number of buildings to reuse, increased opportunity will exist for additional commercial development,” the letter states.
“If you get a level of density of residential development on the Westborough side, just over the line, it will impact our services from a public safety standpoint,” Northborough's Town Administrator John Coderre said.
State officials, as well as those from Northborough and Westborough, were slated to meet to discuss the project June 16. All officials have cautioned at prior meetings that any projected development plans are still several years away from being approved.
In other business, the board submitted its annual review of the town administrator's performance. Coderre received an average of 4.6 out of 5 from the selectmen on categories including: financial management, personnel management, personal characteristics and communication.
“On a personal nature I's just like to thank John for all his efforts; he has really been a pleasure to work with,” said Selectmen Chair Jeff Amberson.
The board also granted a liquor license to Sea Dog Steak & Ale, a pub planned for 318 Main St. in Northborough. The pub will occupy the former Lazio's Italian Bar & Grille, which closed its doors earlier this year. Creating jobs for 10 full-time and eight part-time employees, the pub specializes in handcrafted specialty beers and aims for a family-friendly atmosphere, according to Peter Ferrari, the proposed restaurant's manager.
“We are going to target the residential area; we are targeting children,” he said. “From my experience, children decide where families go to eat.”