CORRECTED ARTICLE: 40B Housing Plan Public Review (originally published July 25, 2018)

| July 31, 2018

CORRECTION:

In last week’s (July 25, 2018) article on the Chapter 40B property proposed for Still River Rd. the person presenting information was incorrectly identified as Douglas Ducharme of Ducharme and Dillis. The information was presented by Douglas Deschenes, an attorney for the applicants who is NOT AFFILLIATED in any way with Ducharme and Dillis. Further, Ducharme and Dillis (civil engineers who provided the design plan) are not responsible for any of the state filings referred to – those are the responsibility of the project applicants. 

We sincerely apologize to Ducharme and Dillis, as well as Attorney Deschenes, for the errors. The corrected article appears below:

 

Corrected copy:

By Ann Needle

Plans for four affordable housing units proposed for a Still River Road parcel were scrutinized by both residents and the Bolton Design Review Board at its July 17 meeting. Chief among the questions was how nearby conservation land would be shielded from the 40B units.

Attorney Douglas Deschenes of Deschenes and Farrell, P.C., representing project applicants David Russell and Robert Pace, laid out the plans for this complex, dubbed Still River Commons and designed by Ducharme & Dillis Civil Design Group. The development would contain four duplex-style buildings, each containing two units, with two considered affordable under state Chapter 40B. The law calls for placing each of the two affordable units in a separate building, Deschenes said.

Plans call for about 1,500 square feet for each of the two-bedroom, 1½-bath townhouses on a six-acre parcel on Still River Road near the intersection with Vaughn Hill Road. The floor plans are identical, except two of the buildings would be on slabs, while the other two would have walk-out basements, Deschenes said.

The six-acre parcel initially was zoned for a single-family home, Deschenes noted. But he confirmed that they would need to create two separate lots to conform with septic requirements. The buildings would be at least 100 feet from the nearest neighbor’s property line, and 40 feet or more from the closest wetland.

Deschenes also said that his plan calls for leaving the existing trees on the property intact, something Design Review Chair Michelle Tuck said is not common, and much appreciated.
As for the possibility Still River Commons could disrupt the area’s traffic flow, Deschenes said project personnel could provide Bolton’s Zoning Board of Appeals with a traffic generation report showing road activity at peak hours in the area. But, Deschenes maintained, the eight units would likely make “an insignificant contribution” to local traffic.

Wetlands and Wet Land Questioned

Bolton residents and Design Review members mostly questioned how the units could affect nearby wetlands, along with whether the parcel has been given proper review by state conservation authorities.

Design Review Chair Michelle Tuck asked if there was a snow removal plan, which Deschenes responded would be filed with the Bolton Zoning Board of Appeals. The plan also should satisfy both the state’s Natural Heritage & Endangered Species Program and Bolton Conservation’s requirement that snow will not be dropped in wetlands, he added.

Other concerns mentioned included fire safety measures. Tuck underscored that a few of the windows cannot be reached by Bolton’s highest ladder truck. However, Deschenes stressed that the terracing of the land around the building should make all the units accessible to firefighters.

Resident Rona Balco also pointed out that the units will be tough for the handicapped to manage. Given the doorways will be no more than 3 feet wide, Balco said, “You break a leg, if you’re in a wheelchair, you have to get through a 3-foot doorway.” Tuck acknowledged these would not be ideal units for the disabled, given the doorways and the three stories in each unit.
Overall concerns continued to come back to the units’ potential effect on nearby wetlands, along with what approvals still were needed.

Responding to Design Review’s David Pettit, Deschenes also said it was uncertain if the grading out of the parcel’s compensatory flood storage area (designed to prevent any flooding the new units could cause) would create additional wetlands.

But Balco insisted, “You’re going to change the whole environment there; it’s criminal. You’re going to have wet basements. I would like to invite the [Design] board to the site to see it; you need to see it.”

Early in his presentation, Deschenes said he had discussed the project with Natural Heritage — which approved the plan for the single-family home — and the Bolton Conservation Commission. He added that the parcel received clearance for the single home under the MA Endangered Species Act, which should hold for Still River Commons.

Stacia Downey questioned whether Natural Heritage has formally reviewed the unit plans, given the land may have shifted since it was approved the parcel for the single-family home. Deschenes replied that Ducharme & Dillis designed only within the area approved originally for the single-family home. He maintained that the state approval holds for three years, while an audience member noted that the single-family approval was issued about a year and a half ago.

However, in correspondence between Downey and Natural Heritage shortly after the July 17 meeting, National Heritage’s Melany Cheeseman stated that representatives of the project applicants have “not submitted a formal MESA filing for the project and the previous determinations are not valid for any work other than that previously proposed or approved.”

As for Bolton, Tuck noted that the next step would be for the project applicants to submit a landscaping grading plan to Design Review. She stressed that Design Review can only offer advice on the plans to other town boards, including the ZBA, which then have final decision-making power.

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