By Keith Regan, Contributing Writer
Westborough – A plan to develop the former Rotary Club golf driving range on the eastbound side of Route 9 into a used car dealership is on the verge of approval after months of hearings before various town boards and committees.
Richmond, Va.-based CarMax, which operates used car stores nationwide, wants to open its first Boston-area location at the site, building a 57,235-square-foot showroom and refurbishment building behind 452 spaces for vehicles fronting the roadway.
The 50-acre property, where the Westborough Rotary Club operated a golf driving range for many years, has been the focus of several previous and ultimately unsuccessful development proposals, including a Home Depot store.
The Board of Selectmen formally heard from proponents Jan. 28 during a site plan public hearing. Because some engineering issues remained outstanding, the board did not take a vote, instead continuing the hearing to its next meeting Tuesday, Feb. 11.
Attorney Marshall Gould, who represents CarMax, noted the property has proven challenging to develop in the past. Gould said a nearby Area of Critical of Environmental Concern (ACEC), which triggers additional state environmental reviews, and the fact that the property contains the habitat of a protected species of salamander, limit how the property can be used.
“This is more complicated than any project I’ve seen done,” Gould said, adding that 36 acres of the property will remain open under the proposal.
CarMax representative John McNamara said the Westborough site would be the first in the Boston market and the second in the state for CarMax, with construction work potentially beginning in 2015. McNamara said the store will employ between 100 and 150 people when fully up and running.
Selectmen said the proposal appeared to be an effective use of a difficult site, with most of the development clustered near Route 9 and much of the rest of the property, which includes an existing trail network, left undisturbed.
“This is a much better use of the property” than earlier proposals, said Selectman Leigh Emery. “In a way it's a shame to have to develop it at all, but this does in a way that works well in the long run.”
Gould, meanwhile, credited the numerous town committees that have reviewed the proposal, singling out the Westborough Fire Department for its willingness to work with CarMax to develop acceptable security gates. Gould said the gates that will be used offer emergency access after-hours and are similar in design to those used at U.S. embassies overseas.