SW Connector in Northborough may be rezoned from industrial

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SW Connector in Northborough may be rezoned from industrial
The town is proposing to rezone an industrial district that includes Northborough Crossing to Highway Business Southwest. (Photo/Courtesy)

NORTHBOROUGH – Several zoning articles may be on the warrant when Town Meeting convenes on April 22.

Among the proposed articles is an effort to rezone the Industrial District near the Southwest Connector to Highway Business Southwest (HBSW).

The Zoning Board of Appeals and Planning Board recently held a joint meeting on Feb. 6 to discuss the articles.

According to Planning Director Laurie Connors, the district, which includes Northborough Crossing, is also zoned for the major commercial overlay district, which allows for a variety of commercial uses. A lot of the uses that currently exist in this district are commercial, she said.

The article calls for dropping the overlay and industrial districts and moving forward with Highway Business Southwest.

“Many of the attributes of this zoning district are identical to the Highway Business District with a couple of exceptions,” said Connors.

Among the differences between the Highway Business and new HBSW, assisted living facilities would be a by-right use. The article would also eliminate the use of a golf course.

Groundwater articles

One of the proposed articles would amend the Groundwater Protection Overlay District when it comes to commercial developments.

Connors said that commercial uses are treated differently in the district “but not necessarily with any rhyme or reason from my point of view.”

Connors said commercial developments that deal with hazardous and/or toxic materials should require a special permit and additional level of oversight.

“But then there are also commercial uses that don’t provide any sort of risk to groundwater because they don’t deal with any toxic or hazardous materials, and yet they are captured in the requirement for a special permit,” Connors said.

The article would treat all commercial development within Area 3 of the Groundwater Protection Overlay District the same as retail and office uses, if they are not dealing with any toxic or hazardous materials. However, projects with new construction or significant additions would have to adhere to the same performance requirements as if they were applying for a special permit use.

The article would also cut out a mandatory lot increase for commercial developments that are served by public sewer.

A related separate article would add two-family and multi-family residences to by-right uses to Area 3 of the district.

Other articles

One of the articles will make changes to the town’s sign bylaw.

According to Planning Board member Amy Poretsky, the bylaw tied into downtown revitalization efforts. There is also a section that would increase the size of signs allowed at Northborough Crossing. Many of those signs need to be larger than what is currently allowed, which requires the stores to go before the Zoning Board of Appeals for a variance.

“We added awning signs. We added projecting signs, which are blade signs. A lot of the other downtowns have them,” she said.

Language was also added for sandwich board signs and a monument sign, according to a draft version of the article.

According to Poretsky, the article states that there can be two signs per building.

“Because if you allow and add five different types of signs, then it just becomes confusing,” she said.

That does not include window signs or a directory sign.

Town Meeting also will weigh in on a district and bylaw for MBTA zoning requirements.

Other articles include prohibiting use variances, an amendment to give the Design Review Committee the ability to review signs within the Downtown Business District, a change to the makeup of the Design Review Committee, adding definitions for co-working space and maker space, language stating that outdoor lights should conform to “dark sky” guidelines, an addition to the design standards and a clarification where off-street parking can be located.

The Planning Board will hold a public hearing on the articles at 6 p.m. Feb. 20. For more information, visit https://www.town.northborough.ma.us/planning-board.

Editor’s note: This article has been updated with a clarification with more information about the proposed changes to the sign bylaw.

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