MARLBOROUGH – There will be a public hearing for the Walcott Heritage Farms project later this month.
This comes after the developer had appealed the City Council’s previous decision, denying the special permit for the proposed multifamily residential development. The state Land Court later remanded it back to the City Council.
During its July 25 meeting, the City Council scheduled this hearing for a revised special permit application for the project for Aug. 22. City Council President Michael Ossing noted that public comment at the hearing would be limited to discussion of the application revisions, not the full scope of the project.
“The public hearing shall be for the limited purpose of considering changes to the previously contemplated draft decision for the grant special permit of the project,” Ossing said.
What was proposed
The Walcott Heritage Farms project – located at the McGee Farm site at 339 Boston Post Rd. East – was first proposed in 2020 as a 188-unit residential project.
The size of the project was reduced to 140 units after opponents sent hundreds of emails and collected more than 1,000 signatures against the project.
The City Council voted 6-5 to deny a special permit for the project at a meeting last August.
At that meeting, councilors described their concern that the project would negatively and dangerously impact traffic on Route 20. Their concerns were compounded after Massachusetts Department of Transportation’s (MassDOT) decision not to place a traffic light at the site on Route 20, where the state has jurisdiction.
While developers had offered to provide funds for the light, MassDOT requires criteria to be met before a traffic light can be installed.
“I think this is something where I fundamentally disagree with the decision of the state, and I protest that by voting against this,” Councilor David Doucette said at that August meeting. “Aside from that, I wish I could vote for it.”
Doucette joined Councilors Laura Wagner, John Irish, Mark Oram, Samantha Perlman and Sean Navin in voting against the special permit, while City Council President Michael Ossing, Vice President Kathleen Robey and councilors Christian Dumais, Donald Landers and Robert Tunnera supported it.
Terms of settlement agreement
The applicant for the project, Waypoint Residential, had appealed the City Council’s decision to Land Court.
In the complaint, attorneys representing Waypoint argued the City Council did not have the jurisdiction to require a traffic light on Route 20 as a condition for approval of the application.
Waypoint and the City Council then settled and filed a joint request for the Land Court to remand and return the issue to the council.
Waypoint would contact MassDOT with a request for a traffic light and traffic study of the site’s intersection with the highway.
As part of the agreement Waypoint would classify 20% of the housing at Walcott as affordable instead of 15% as previously proposed. It also agreed to increase the number of charging stations from two to four as part of the settlement, and to start construction no sooner than April 14, 2023.
In a letter to the City Council, Mayor Arthur Vigeant recommended the council set a public hearing for the revised Walcott application.
“In my opinion, the revised application is consistent with the terms of the settlement agreement, and is ready for City Council consideration,” Vigeant wrote.