Developers settle with city in Marlborough Walcott housing project appeal

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A car passes in front of the site of the proposed Walcott residential project in Marlborough. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

MARLBOROUGH – Marlborough’s proposed Walcott Heritage Farms residential housing project may soon be sent back before the City Council under the terms of a settlement agreement. 

This is the latest development after Waypoint Residential filed an appeal in state Land Court last year following the City Council’s decision to deny a site plan application filed by Waypoint. Land Court referred the matter to a mediation process.

City Solicitor Jason Grossfield then forwarded this eventual agreement to the City Council in a memo dated May 17. 

Project would add 140 residential units on Route 20

Cars pass the McGee farm property on Route 20. Concern about traffic safety helped prompt a majority of Marlborough Urban Affairs Subcommittee members to vote to reject a development proposal, last month.
Stakeholders had raised concerns about traffic impacts of the proposed Walcott housing project off Route 20 in Marlborough prior to the City Council’s vote to deny a special permit application last year. (Photo/Dakota Antelman)

Located at the site of the former McGee Horse Farm at 339 Boston Post Road East (Route 20) in Marlborough, the proposed Walcott project is envisioned as a 140-unit multi family residential project. 

First proposing the project in 2020, developers scaled down their plans from 188-units to 140-units following lengthy public debate and outcry from some opponents. 

Discussion continued, however, in various community forums and in City Council meetings themselves, with residents voicing concerns focused on traffic and green space among other topics. 

The City Council voted to deny the developer’s site plan application last August.

Their vote followed a separate decision by the Massachusetts Department of Transportation (MassDOT) to deny a request for a traffic light on Route 20 near the Walcott site. 

The light was viewed as a possible way to mitigate some traffic concerns, but the site did not meet benchmarks to qualify, according to the MassDOT. 

The final council vote was split along a 6-5 margin with Councilors David Doucette, Laura Wagner, John Irish, Mark Oram, Samantha Perlman and Sean Navin voting against the approval. 

“I fundamentally disagree with the [traffic light] decision of the state, and I protest that by voting against this,” Doucette said as he explained his vote. “Aside from that, I wish I could vote for [the project].”

President Michael Ossing, Vice President Kathleen Robey and councilors Christian Dumais, Donald Landers and Robert Tunnera voted in favor.

“While I appreciate the comments from residents, and am not dismissing their valued input, the facts I have outlined, not perceptions of what the project might mean, are why I will be voting in favor of this special permit,” Robey noted in her explanation of her vote in favor of the permit.

Waypoint appealed the City Council’s decision in September, noting the traffic light issue in part of its complaint. 

Attorneys noted that developers had been willing to foot the bill for the traffic light, but were unable to do so due to MassDOT’s standards.

“The City Council is without jurisdiction to require a traffic signal on Route 20 as a condition to the grant of a Special Permit for the Project, and the requirement for a traffic light was an error of law,” that complaint said.

Developers had asked Land Court to annul the City Council’s decision.

Parties to file request to remand

Under the recent settlement agreement, Waypoint and the City will file a joint request to remand in this case, effectively asking Land Court to send this matter back to the City Council. 

If and when that court order to remand comes, the council will then consider the project “based on the parameters, plans, and supporting documents as set forth in [a] draft special permit approval decision” that Grossfield sent to the City Council in August of last year. 

The agreement notes that Waypoint “remains willing to make a payment to the City in the amount of $20,000 ”to fund a recreational pedestrian trail on city-owned land next to the proposed Walcott site. 

Waypoint has increased the proportion of its housing that would be classified as affordable, increasing from 15% to 20%.

The developer will also contact MassDOT with its own request for a traffic signal in addition to a traffic study of its intersection with Route 20 once an approved building is fully occupied.

A decision to approve Waypoint’s special permit application would further stipulate that construction on the project not begin until April 14, 2023, under the agreement.

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