Northborough Planning Board concerned about proposed zoning bylaw changes

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Northborough Planning Board concerned about proposed zoning bylaw changes
Northborough’s current zoning map shows the Residential C zoning district (light yellow) encircling the downtown area. (Screenshot/via Town of Northborough)

NORTHBOROUGH – Developers say they may be headed back to the drawing board after the Northborough Planning Board expressed hesitancy Dec. 7 to change a town zoning bylaw to accommodate a proposed project at 75 Ridge Rd.

 “I’d hate … to change the bylaws for an entire district for one project right now without knowing what could happen as a result of it,” Planning Board member Anthony Ziton said at the Planning Board meeting. 

Planning Board members note concerns

The developers had previously discussed building homes on this site off Ridge Road. 

They then went before the Planning Board on Nov. 16 and proposed adding the Residential C zoning district, which includes their property, to Northborough’s bylaw for open space-residential design (OSRD).

That bylaw, which encourages “creative” and “environmentally sensitive design,” is currently limited to the Residential A and B districts. 

In November, the developers said that the change would allow them to fit as many as eight homes on their site, though they planned to reduce that number to five.

Planning Board member Amy Poretsky said she wasn’t in favor of opening the district to the OSRD. 

“The purpose of the open space-residential design is to protect large parcels of open space,” Poretsky said.

RC, in comparison, is a more dense section of Northborough, she continued.

“I don’t think it’s the right location for this open space design,” Poretsky said. “I think there would be a lot of unintended consequences, like we were just talking about with lot sizes.” 

Planning Board member Michelle Gillespie said she was the person who initially brought the bylaw forward to the Planning Board. 

The goal was for it to be placed into the RA and and RB districts, which is how it was pitched to residents, she said. There would be open space and it could connect to other open space or trails, she said.

Gillespie said there was “a lot” of discussion, as this bylaw was being developed, on why it specifically shouldn’t include the RC district. 

Developers reconsider plans following feedback

Planning Board member Millie Milton said she could appreciate the developers wanting to be creative with the lot. 

“But I keep going back to the reason this is a problem for them is because [of] the cost of the property and the clean up,” Milton said. “So, I feel that that really shouldn’t fall under our decision-making process to enable them to pay either a higher cost for it and accommodate this type of zoning application for that.”

She continued, “If they were getting the property at a reduced cost, I don’t think they’d be as concerned about how many houses they’re going to put on it. I could be wrong, but that’s my feeling.”

During a meeting in May, the developers showed the board pictures of the trash and debris on the site, including a PT Cruiser that has a tree through it. At that time, they estimated that the cost to clean it up was similar to buying another tract of land. 

After the board’s comments on Dec. 7, developer Damon Amato said they may have to head back to the drawing board, including looking at other uses. 

“I know that we might be able to do duplexes via a special permit there. We’ll also have to look at other commercial uses for the property as well,” Amato said.

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