Northborough Planning Board weighs changes to zoning density requirements

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Northborough Planning Board weighs changes to zoning density requirements
A look down Brigham Street. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

NORTHBOROUGH – A conversation about proposed zoning bylaw changes led to a discussion by the Northborough Planning Board Dec. 7 about frontage requirements and increased density in Northborough’s residential districts. 

The conversation was sparked by former Selectman Aaron Hutchins on July 6. 

“I’m a father of three girls. In an ideal world, if I wanted to build a house for each of my girls, I couldn’t do it the way the current bylaws are written, even though I have almost five acres of land in this town,” he said. 

Hutchins’ property at 91 Brigham St. spans 4.7 acres with about 190 feet of frontage in the Residential C (RC) zoning district. 

He expressed interest in constructing a shared driveway with two to three houses.

Northborough Planning Board weighs changes to zoning density requirements
Aaron Hutchins owns a property on Brigham Street. (Photo/Laura Hayes)

However, Hutchins said, the current bylaw means that the lot for a new home behind his house would include most of his current land, leaving his existing home with less than an acre. 

Additionally, if he constructed a common driveway, he would have to give up 100 feet of frontage, he said. Frontage is the boundary that borders the street.

Hutchins asked if the Planning Board would entertain changes to the bylaws when it came to frontage and lot size requirements. The board expressed interest in how many properties would be affected.

During the Dec. 7 meeting, Town Planner Kathy Joubert said the Residential C zone is already the most dense zone in Northborough. 

MIS/GIS Director David Kane first looked for residential parcels with lots over 40,000 square feet and with over 100 feet of frontage within the Residential C district. His research found 417 parcels met that criteria and that, of that number, 280 were single-family residential properties. 

Those properties might be able to add new homes if these regulations were to change.

“David and I both were very surprised that there were this many parcels that would be affected by a density change,” Joubert said.

Hutchins further reduced that number, though, saying 54 properties were over two acres and 23 were over three.

He suggested that the bylaw change for these 54 properties could let them have as many homes as desired on a lot as long as each home had an acre of that lot allocated to it. That would possibly create 178 new homes in town, under Hutchins’ calculations. 

“Would that devastate Northborough?” he asked. “Would that cause the creation of a new school building, an additional police force? I don’t know. I haven’t gone into that detailed analysis.”

Planning Board member Michelle Gillespie responded that, if the board was to allow reduced frontage in this district, the bylaw would also have to be adjusted for the Residential A and B districts. 

Gillespie said residents with two acres could raise concerns about why they were excluded.

“Land is very valuable now,” she said. “If they want to sell it, they want to profit as much [off] of it. You have to be really cautious because you could really be opening a lot up,” she said.

“This is a very complex situation,” said Planning Board member Anthony Ziton. “RC is one thing, but if you want to look at RA and RB and then the impacts it could make on town—this is really something you’d really have to dig into to understand the ramifications as a result of it.”

The board decided to further look at numbers and offer feedback at a later date.

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