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96-Unit Apartment Complex Approved By Planning Board

Apr 30, 2015 06:07PM ● Published by Bill Gilman

Engineer Jim Hanley discusses the layout and design of the proposed Residences at Joan's Farm at Monday's Planning Board meeting.

Gallery: Residences at Joan's Farm [0 Images] Click any image to expand.

A proposed apartment complex to be located off Livingston Street passed a major hurdle on Monday with the Planning Board signing off on a waiver allowing two buildings to exceed 2 1/2 stories, as allowed under the zoning bylaws.
At a continuation of a public hearing on Monday, developer Arnie Martel unveiled renderings of The Residences at Joan's Farm, which will include two four-story buildings and a total of 96 apartment units.
The complex, to be constructed on a 9.8 acre parcel of land on Livingston Street, will also feature extensive landscaping and walking trails that will connect to existing and planned trails in the area.
The board voted to grant the height waiver, as well as a second waiver pertaining to the landscaping. The board also agreed to allow Martel to make a payment of $350,000 into the town's affordable housing trust fund, in lieu of making 15 percent of the units (14 total) affordable. All of the votes were 4-0, with new board member Keith Anderson recusing himself from the public hearing.
The votes came despite impassioned pleas from residents, most of whom live in the neighborhood of the proposed project. Many said the size and scope of the project did not fit well in that section of Tewksbury.
"It's just too big for the area," said Atty. Patricia Meuse, who admitted she is not a fan of apartment complexes and likes the open farm land that was once common throughout Tewksbury. She urged the board to enforce the bylaws as written. "And why is it they think they can come in here and expect (the height limit) will be waived? Maybe because that's what (the planning board) always does for builders."
"I also look at this as being a four-story building in the middle of a corn field. It just looks out of place," added Mark Sheehan of Lancaster Drive.
Among those to speak during the hearing was Rebecca Brown senior engineer for TEC, the firm hired to do a peer review of the Traffic Impact and Access Study compiled by Ron Muller and Associates for Martel. Brown signed off on the methodology used in the report, which concluded 85 percent of the traffic leaving The Residences at Joan's Farm would be taking a right turn toward East Street and just 15 percent would be heading left, into the heavily populated neighborhood.
However, resident Marie Hines countered, saying she feels many drivers will quickly get frustrated with the rush-hour traffic on East Street and at the East Street/Livingston Street traffic lights and will, instead, turn left and go through the Pinnacle Street neighborhood to get to I-93.
During the hearing, Atty. Ronald Cuoto, representing Martel, said the developer was committing around $550,000 in mitigation funds into the project. In addition to the $350,000 for the Affordable Housing Trust, Martel is also spending money on brush removal (to improve line of sight), road repair, curbing and additional landscaping.
While approval from the Planning Board is a key step in the project, Martel must still address stormwater issues before the Conservation Commission next week.

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