Westborough pitches industrial overlay district

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Westborough pitches industrial overlay district
A proposed overlay district would be situated near Otis Street in Westborough. (Photo/via Westborough TV)

WESTBOROUGH – A proposed industrial overlay district would offer developers more permissive building standards in a part of Westborough around Otis Street, if approved at Town Meeting later this month.

This, town officials say, would help boost Westborough’s tax base and reduce burdens on the residential taxpayer.

“This new zoning would provide more opportunities to meet the desires of today’s modern office and [research and development] companies [and] improve Westborough’s attractiveness when competing with other towns for business,” Town Planner Jim Robbins said in a presentation to the Select Board on Feb. 22.

Property owners ask for change

Robbins said property owners previously asked to increase coverage limits, which govern the amount of space on their lots taken up by developed property, including buildings, parking lots and other surfaces.

Robbins said he examined options to change those limits as well as limits on the height of buildings in Westborough’s General Industrial District.

He noted that he began looking into loosening height restrictions with the understanding that allowing developers to build vertically can also alleviate some coverage needs.

“The intention is to protect as much of the natural environment out there as possible,” Robbins said.

Increased coverage does translate to an increase in “impervious surfaces,” like pavement, structures, driveways and light bases, that do not absorb rainwater.

District to include area around Otis Street

The new overlay district, called the Industrial E (IE) Overlay District, would include west side properties on Otis Street, Sassacus Drive, Valente Drive and Smith Valve Parkway.

“The intention is still to allow additional expansion of office, research and development and technology uses to create more opportunities for commercial users,” Robbins said.

The overlay would not extend below the railroad tracks in the area because that land abuts residential properties on Fisher Street and Otis Street.

“We wanted to protect [residential properties] as much as possible while still allowing all of these other properties…to expand or increase their height,” Robbins said.

Overlay district

The same uses as those allowed in the general industrial district would be allowed in the overlay district.

What would change is those guidelines limiting the dimensions of buildings, Robbins said.

Specifically, the new overlay would allow for an additional story and a 10% decrease in the minimum amount of open space required.

Developers would be allowed up to five stories in their building by right. The maximum height is 85 feet.

In comparison, the current zoning only allows up to four stories and up to 60 feet, Robbins said.

Developers would only be required to have a minimum of 50% open space. The general industrial zone currently requires 60% open space.

Provisions

The town is also requesting specific provisions associated with this district.

“We’re not just going to allow it by right without making special circumstances for the businesses to protect the surrounding neighborhood,” Robbins said.

Those provisions include stipulations that developers must maximize their opportunities for walking and bicycling.

Screening will be required if a property in the new overlay district is within 300 feet of a residential abutter.

Developments should also incorporate best practices regarding energy efficient designs, environmental protection, stormwater management, low impact development techniques and Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design criteria when applicable, Robbins said.

Voters will be asked to approve this new overlay district at Town Meeting on March 19. The Select Board voted to close the warrant for Town Meeting during this Feb. 22 meeting.

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