Marlborough City Council green lights permit for Alta project

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Marlborough City Council green lights permit for Alta project
A rendering shows the proposed Alta Marlborough development currently envisioned for the French Hill area of Marlborough. (Photo/via City of Marlborough)

MARLBOROUGH – The special permit for the 10,000-square-foot Alta project was approved 7-1-1-1 at a Marlborough City Council meeting on July 25.

It was approved with Councilor Don Landers absent and Councilor Christian Dumais abstaining. Mark Oram was the only councilor to vote against the special permit.

The mixed-use retail and residential project would be on the corner of Lincoln and Mechanic Streets. It would have 276 units, with 10% being affordable, and 470 parking spaces. 

In past meetings, the developers have said it would make the Assabet River Rail Trail more accessible by increasing the amount of off-street parking spaces. Additionally, they said a restroom building would be conveyed to the city for use by the public.

Councilor talks traffic concerns

City Councilor Kathleen Robey said that the Urban Affairs Committee, which she chairs, had heard many concerns about the project’s impact on traffic. As a condition of the approved special permit there will be a peer review of the developer’s traffic study. 

Should that review identify any concerns, Marlborough’s Site Plan Review Committee will have the authority to modify special permit conditions or add new conditions. The developer would then need to meet those conditions before a building permit would be issued.

“Let the professionals do their work and they will make sure that any conditions that need to be in there to deal with traffic are in there,” Robey said, commenting on the process.

Robey added that the department heads on the city’s Site Plan Review Committee had the talent and knowledge to make decisions on traffic. 

Oram said that while the Site Plan Review Committee “does a great job,” the City Council is the only body that has the power to reduce the number of units and density of the project. 

“That’s why I’m suggesting let them do the peer review, keep that here until it’s done,” Oram said. “Because if indeed the 276 units in this small area is overuse and will cause traffic issues, we’re the governing body that decides that.”

Oram added that while he thinks approval for the special permit is premature, he supported other parts of the project, like the parking garage and the appearance of the project. He also said that he wants to see the corner of Lincoln and Mechanic Street cleaned up.

The parking garage, he added, was indicative of a potential risk for traffic. 

“I have a feeling there will be 400 plus cars coming in and out of there,” Oram said. 

‘An opportunity we can’t pass up’

The other councilors were supportive of the project. Councilor David Doucette said that it was a priority of the Council to complete this project for the area’s benefit, and that if issues with traffic arise the city will have to address them through the Department of Public Works.

“I think this is an opportunity that we can’t pass up,” Doucette said.

The City Council also voted to amend one part of the application to ensure that residents would have all-electric utilities, and that the roof would have a substantial green roof as shown on the project’s plans.

Doucette noted that the amendment would still allow the use of gas in restaurants in part of the mixed-use complex.

“The technology’s not there for electric at this point, and this is just going to be for the retail establishments as needed,” Doucette said. “I think this is a fair opportunity for them to address and really fulfill the needs of the businesses that move in.”

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