Developers expand on McGee Farm plans, face questions at site visit

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By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer

Aerial view of proposed project site
Photo/Comm. of Mass., Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs
Massachusetts Environmental Policy Act (MEPA) Office

Marlborough – Developers and consultants behind a proposal for a condo complex at the old McGee Farm answered questions and offered new information at a virtual site visit, July 30.

First gaining attention earlier this year, the project, submitted on behalf of WP Marlborough MA Owner, LLC based in Stamford, Conn, is proposed to be a “high-end residential” complex, to be known as Volaris Marlborough. It would consist of 188 units in four buildings along with garages, parking spaces, landscaping “open space and walking trails.” The property is located at 339 Boston Post Road (Route 20 East).

Seventy percent of the sprawling property will remain open space, developers say. Within that, landscaping will turn large swaths of land into everything from a dog park, to gravel trails.

“We’re planning something that’s really nice and really high end,” Tom Moran said of his group’s efforts. “It fits the community in which we’re building.”

The Marlborough City Council first reviewed permit requests in mid-May before sending the matter to the Urban Affairs Committee. They finally discussed plans on July 20 after a lengthy delay.

Concurrently with the permitting process, residents have flooded City Council members with complaints and at least one online petition opposing the development.

Aware of the opinions surrounding their proposal, those working on this project sought to reassure site visit viewers.

“We know it’s difficult,” said Giles Ham, a traffic engineering consultant from the firm Vanasse & Associates. “We’re not telling you it’s not difficult… But this project is not going to dramatically change things.”

Though they will be filling some wetlands, Ham said he and his team will be replacing those spaces at a 2.8/1 ratio with artificial wetlands elsewhere on site.

Dave Robinson, a civil engineering and land survey consultant from the firm Allen & Major Associates, said the property will also feature complex draining systems to avoid groundwater pollution. With snowmelt in particular, he said his team has identified locations to store large piles

Finally, condo construction will coincide with work on Rt. 20 itself, as the Mass. Department of Transportation helps widen the roadway.

“It will help traffic flow better in and out of our site,” Ham said of that project.

As developers wrapped up their comments, though, residents and elected officials remained apprehensive.

“I’m having a hard time imagining adding that many cars at that spot,” City Council Member Laura Wagner said. “…It just seems like there’s going to be a massive problem with traffic congestion.”

She joined a chorus of voices criticizing developers’ reliance on “modeling” in their presentation, which argued the minimal traffic impact of new condos.

“I don’t think modeling is the answer,” Priscilla Ryder of the Conservation Commission said. “I think people need to sit on this a little.”

Ryder also worried about aforementioned snowmelt plans. Ryder, in fact, said her wing of city government would likely require further amendments to existing permit requests as the city does not generally allow snow storage on grass.

“If it’s treated with chemicals, it will still seep into the ground,” Wagner said, echoing concerns.

This project is moving forward. Hearing responses from local leaders like Ryder, though, developers said they recognize that their plans have and probably will continue to undergo changes.

As criticism persists, the next step in the ongoing permitting process is a meeting with the Urban Affairs Committee for further review of plans.