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Westborough Woods Gets Conditional OK

The zoning board of appeals will issue its final approval May 20.

The Westborough Zoning Board of Appeals voted Monday night to conditionally approve the 250-unit Westborough Woods apartment complex, granting many of the waivers the developers requested.

Final approval will come May 20, after town consultant Ralph Wilmer provides a final decision revised to reflect Monday night's vote.

Developer Fran Zarette of 346 Turnpike Road LLC said afterward he was "fine" with the conditional approval.

The board ruled exactly one week after closing its public hearing on 346 Turnpike Rod LLC's comprehensive permit application under Massachusetts' affordable housing law, Chapter 40B. The hearing opened Jan. 14.

The 314,230-square-foot project proposed for 346 Turnpike Road consists of 250 rental apartments, of which 62 would be affordable; a 6,234-square-foot clubhouse with outdoor swimming pool; and a 5,234-square-foot retail building, according to the Sept. 7 Certificate of the state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs on the Environmental Notification Form.

Monday night, the zoning board deliberated before a standing-room-only crowd at the Forbes Municipal Building.

"You're more than welcome to sit here and listen, but it's a decision meeting now," Chairman Jim Johnson said.

Johnson expressed concerns about some of the waiver requests, and members supported him.

One request involved the sign setback requirements.

"This is a sign identifying an apartment complex. I don't see any need for moving it closer to Route 9," Johnson said, adding there was "no hardship shown during the public hearing."

arthur May 07, 2013 at 12:13 PM
way to hold the line for the town....
Bubblicious May 07, 2013 at 03:34 PM
This is infuriating. This project brings NO positive benefits for the town. Instead of pursuing the very real dangers of having only a single access point on Rt 9 to a large high-density complex, the board instead focuses on a sign setback? Really?!? The fact alone that we're looking at an $1.5-2M increase PER YEAR to educate the children who live in this complex is ridiculous - we can barely afford to properly educate the students we have now. For the life of me, I can't understand the complacency of the zba. Aren't they supposed to be looking out for the good of the town? Instead, they sit on their hands and allow any Tom, Dick, and Harry developer to ram through any project they like. Maybe somebody's pockets are being lined - can't possibly think of any other reasonable explanation for this. Shame on them.
west res May 07, 2013 at 06:24 PM
I walked away with a feeling some of the board may have had a vested interest in an approval as they smilled and repeatedly said "i dont have problem with that" for each waiver. They certainly dont have the towns best interest at heart, any of them. Try and remember this at the next election, the entire board plus the selectman Emery and Drewery.
Michael Gelbwasser (Editor) May 07, 2013 at 06:34 PM
I would be very careful about suggesting -- without proof -- that board members are somehow benefitting from this project. Criticizing the vote absolutely is fair game. Implying wrongdoing is not.
west res May 07, 2013 at 06:49 PM
Not accusing, just stating my feelings. They surely do not act as if they are working on behalf of the residence and taxpayers but seem more like a rubber stamp bregade. If anyone was at last nights hearing, who was the inept attorney type at the end of the table. He seemed like an attorney who is looking to avoid a confrontation at all cost and not stand up for the town. I actually was wondering at one point if he was the lawyer for the developer but i assume he was the towns attorney? or just the attorney for the board?
Michael Gelbwasser (Editor) May 07, 2013 at 07:06 PM
Hi West, I commented because I'm starting to see a trend here, starting with Bubbilicious' comment, "Maybe somebody's pockets are being lined - can't possibly think of any other reasonable explanation for this." Again, suggesting that a board member benefits from the project is wrong, unless proof is offered. I gathered that some of the waivers that were requested and approved are fairly common.
Goldilocks May 07, 2013 at 07:14 PM
Bubblicious, did you read the op-ed piece about the project on Patch? If you're infuriated now, you'd better brace yourself before you take a look at that. This project was allowed in under 40B because we were shy of our 10% affordable housing target by TWELVE units. Yes, I believe that part of the blame might belong on the ZBA, who appeared to not want to get involved with a lawsuit by the developer, but I believe the bigger blame should be put squarely on our town officials who either didn't know or didn't care that we were so close to our affordable housing limit. So many questions we'll never get the answer to, like why weren't they more proactive or more creative about fulfilling our affordable housing unit goal before a 40B developer came in? The taxpayers will never know the full truth but I do know one thing for sure: we'll be paying for this in perpetuity.
Willard Zehr May 07, 2013 at 08:33 PM
ZBA: Are you out of your minds?!!! All of you. It is time for you to get a new hobby and let some fresh minds on the board. Please tell us how this is helping the town? You gave the perception that you were voting out of spite. Very smug. You each should be ashamed of yourselves and embarrassed that you let Dicks go to Northborough. A bad decision here and there is ok, but you seem to consistently exercise poor judgment.
west res May 07, 2013 at 11:03 PM
A law suit would A) dragged out the process by years and B) there is a good shot at winning if we had an attorney with a spine. At the very least we would have bought time before this all crashes down on the schools. I am not sure if I should run for zba or call a realtor.
westborores May 08, 2013 at 12:29 AM
To clear up a couple misconceptions.... Westboro is actually about 53 units short of 10%. It is unfortunate that mistakes by one blogger are perpetuated. One can find this easy enough online. Second, in 2010 the town of westboro voted overwhelmingly to support 40b - we had our chance to repeal 40b and westboro residents supported its continuance! By a wide margin. So while the 9 posters here may not like it, the town voted in favor of it and all the rules that go along with it. Third, 40b rules are very one sided in favor of a developer. The zba was handcuffed by the lack of allowable evidence to deny the application. In two recent court rulings, the highest court in massachusetts basically said that towns can only use very limited circumstances to deny 40b. School budgets are not allowable as a reason! Valid reasons would include public safety concerns. So when the police and fire chief say there are no public safety concerns, the zba is handcuffed. Sure, a zba can deny and knowingly issue a decision that will be overturned by the housing appeals committee- to what, delay? Do you understand that the housing appeals committee will then automatically grant all zoning waivers, and the concessions made by the developer during the process are all wiped away. And then the town may be forced to pay the legal bills of the developer if the zba denied an application knowing there was no reason in record to allow a denial. Anyone can disagree with the zba, but know the facts first.
west res May 08, 2013 at 11:21 AM
The zba had an opportunity to keep the number of 3 bed units to 5%, the state financing the developer is getting requires 10%. The zba gave in in order to allow the developer to get the subsidy. Had they not bent over there is a good chance the developer may have not gone forward without the valuable subsidy. They were visibly nervous when this was brought up. But the board smiled and gave them what they wanted. Spineless lap dogs with no concern for the town. And it's not just a few people posting here, much of the town cares and are appalled but resigned to be led by such useless "leaders". Westborores, which board member are you? Affordable housing is a great idea, wreck less planning is not.
Bubblicious May 08, 2013 at 05:42 PM
westborores, we're all aware of the drawbacks to 40B. But all cities and towns in Massachusetts are subject to it, not just Westboro. The difference is that there are towns such as Milton, Sudbury, Bedford and others where their planning and zoning boards work hard to maintain the integrity of their communities, and don't quiver and roll over at the mere sight of developers. These other boards understand and care about the social and economic problems that these large-scale housing projects bring to a community, and these boards respect both their communities and the taxpayers enough to actively investigate alternative plans to the proposed developments, as well as instituting proactive measures to help combat proposed developments in the future. Sudbury, for example is at 5% affordable housing, and has absolutely no intention of ever rising above that mark. I'm very tired of hearing that our zoning and planning boards' hands are tied, blah blah blah. Their hands are only tied because they aren't interested enough, don't care enough, and perhaps aren't savvy enough to do their homework and actually try to stop this monstrosity. It's sheer laziness to simply toss up their hands and say, "Sorry folks, nothing we can do - 40B, you know!" That's total BS. This development is going to bring NOTHING positive to Westboro. At a cost of $1.5-2M extra per year just to educate this development's kids, I would think they'd be scrambling every which way to thwart this project. But no.

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