Need for Second Access to Westborough Woods Hotly Debated
The zoning board of appeals continued the public hearing to Feb. 25.
A 250-unit complex proposed under Massachusetts’ Chapter 40B affordable housing statute is “the only way that I could develop this property,” developer Fran Zarette told the Westborough Zoning Board of Appeals on Monday night.
Zarette spoke during the latest session of the board’s public hearing on the Westborough Woods project his 346 Turnpike Road LLC has proposed for 346 Turnpike Road, on Route 9 near Otis Street.
Two issues, both related, dominated Monday night’s discussion: whether the site needs a second access point, and the prospect of Westborough school buses looping from Route 9 to Route 20 to serve the site.
The board continued the public hearing to 7:30 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Forbes Municipal Building.
Zarette said he proposed a commercial project at the site a few years ago, but withdrew his application before the planning board “because we would not tell them who the client was.”
At that time, he said, he “working on an easement agreement with the Ward family” for the second access. But “since that point, the agreement is terminated, they decided they‘re going to be developing their property,” he said.
“We did look at this. We’re not trying to skirt the issue of secondary access,” Zarette said.
Town consultant Robert Nagi said he has not opined on the second access. Nagi is a principal with Vanasse Hangen Brustlin, a professional engineering firm.
Nancy Doherty of Tetra Tech, one of Zarette’s consultants, said letters from Police Chief Alan Gordon and Fire Chief Nick Perron indicate they’re “comfortable with the one access drive.”
Doherty said Zarette’s team is working with state Department of Transportation District 3 officials on the driveway’s design.
“They’re well aware of the towns concerns about safety at that intersection, and they’re willing to work with the town and us to make it as safe as we can,” she said.
Doherty said the project’s developers have “contacted several adjacent landowners, including Target Corp.,” which declined access through to Otis Street. Another idea, a connection to Gleason Street through an easement from Ward family,“ would also require traveling through a sand and gravel pit operation” at an approximate cost of $1.7 million.
Doherty said the school bus route is “between the school department and you and your safety officials.”
“One possible route is the buses would come up Otis Street, take a left at the traffic signal, down Route 9” onto Route 20, and return to Route 9, she said.
Consultants have measured that idea between 7:30 and 9 a.m. and 2 and 4 p.m.
“It took four minutes in the morning and five in the afternoon to make that loop,” Doherty said.
“I think it’s a fairly reasonable amount of time for kids to be on a school bus.”
School Committee Vice Chairman Stephen Doret said that “from the school committee’s point of view, local access not off of Route 9” has “been documented and requested.”
School Superintendent Marianne O’Connor said the youngest students would attend the Fales Elementary School because the Armstrong Elementary School is filled.
“The youngest students will be on the bus the longest,” she said.