WESTBOROUGH – Efforts to extend Westborough’s West Park Drive to Flanders Road are moving forward after the Planning Board gave its green light on June 7.
As it approved plans, however, the Planning Board rejected a waiver proposed by the property owners Carruth Capital.
The waiver proposal asked the town to not request, require or condition any further improvements to the road as long as total square footage of the Westborough Office Park, which springs up around West Park Drive, remains under the Massachusetts Environmental Protection Agency (MEPA) approved capacity of about 1,730,000 square feet.
Planning Board Chair Mark Silverberg said that he couldn’t support the language in the waiver – a concern echoed by other members.
“I don’t think we have the authority as a board to govern future decisions by other boards,” Silverberg said.
Carruth Capital owns the Westborough Office Park and has been looking to extend the facility’s central road.
“Carruth Capital wanted the road — came to the town, asked us to help facilitate the road,” Silverberg said this month.
“The town bent over backwards to facilitate the road, applying for a MassWorks grant,” he continued. “Now, we’re revising that approval to accommodate Carruth Capital and the application because of the significant cost of building the original road.”
In early 2021, the town learned that it would indeed receive a $1.28 million grant from the state MassWorks Infrastructure Program to fund the public portion of this project.
That year the Planning Board also approved subdivision plans that would have extended the roadway from the driveway of 2200 West Park Drive down to Flanders Road.
As Town Planner Jim Robbins explained it to the Select Board a week after the Planning Board’s approval, on June 14, there would be a new intersection of West Park Drive and Flanders Road with a traffic signal.
A multi-use trail would also be constructed next to the road as part of the Boston-Worcester Air Line Trail project.
“Construction prices have increased to the point that when we bid the public work – the MassWorks work – it came in higher than the total grant amount,” Robbins said, however.
With the help of Carruth, Robbins said they approached MassWorks staff to get an extension and budget increase, which was successful and added an additional $365,000.
Town Manager Kristi Williams said this would cover the cost of construction and allow for some contingency funds.
“[We] got the increase because it’s not just Westborough this is happening in,” Robbins said. “This is happening to all the MassWorks projects right now.”
As the town made these adjustments, Carruth then approached the Planning Board about modifying its plans.
Originally, the driveway of 2200 West Park Drive would have been eliminated and become part of a brand new road.
As Robbins explained it, the existing road will now serve as the first 700 feet of the West Park Drive extension under the modified plans.
The remaining 2,000 feet will consist of a new road as originally planned.
“In saving the construction of that 700 feet, it saves Carruth significant money, and it doesn’t harm either the bike trail or West Park Drive,” Robbins said. “It still provides safe passage for both vehicles and for the bike path.”
Letter to Planning Board
Before the Planning Board approved the modified plans, members were able to ask questions about the conditions and waivers for their approval.
The waiver proposed by Carruth was one of 10 discussed for this project. As Robbins explained to the Planning Board, this waiver would have given Carruth blanket permission to not comply with future road standards shown on the original plans.
Carruth’s Chief Investment Officer Marc Verreault later told the Select Board that there were concerns about the future of the road and possible impact to the company if there were any changes to the businesses.
After the waiver’s denial, Carruth asked the Select Board to sign a letter recommending to the Planning Board that, as long as it’s under permitted square footage, Carruth would be able to use the existing road.
“We’re paying the mitigation forward, and we’re asking the town boards to give us some non-binding consideration some time in the future when we do build out the lots that are currently available and not built out,” Verreault said.
The Select Board approved this letter.