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Second Night Of Annual Town Meeting Goes Poorly For Developers, Hardy-Pike House

May 10, 2016 12:14PM ● By Bill Gilman

Jay Kelley and Warren Carey prepare to speak on an article at the Annual Town Meeting.

The voters of Tewksbury had a message for town leaders at Day 2 of the Annual Town Meeting last week -- Pump the brakes on new residential development.
Voters shot down articles that would have re-zoned land for residential projects around Ames Pond and on East Street. They also approved an amendment to an article that guaranteed only single-family homes could be built on a parcel of land off South Street.
Article 30 asked voters to re-zone several lots surrounding Ames Pond from Office/Research to Multi-Family District. The re-zoning would have opened the door for a project proposed by developers Arnie Martel and Marc Ginsburg for roughly 200 residential units.
According to Atty. Rick O'Neil, speaking on behalf of the developers, attempts had been made multiple times to market the property for commercial use, without success.
But several North Tewksbury residents spoke against the article, arguing that the last thing the area needed was more residential development, as it would lead to increased traffic, crime and put an added drain on town services.
"The zoning (for the land) should have been known by the people who bought the property," said Dale Howard. "Instead of coming here and saying, 'please re-zone this, so it will be more profitable for me,'"
Resident Jean Olson complained that the article was too vague and didn't adequately explain what development could go on the property if it were approved. She also noted that a map of the property was not included in the warrant and was not made available until just a few days before Town Meeting.
In a standing vote, the article fell just three votes shy of the two-thirds majority needed for passage (238-141).
Also going down to defeat was Article 31, proposed by developer James Andella. He was asking voters to add his 3-acre parcel of land at 155 East St. to the Village Mixed-Use Overlay District. This would have allowed him to build 15 townhouse condos on the property.
As part of the article, Andella was committing to invest more than $500,000 to relocate the historic Hardy-Pike House from its present location at 464 Main St. to the front of the East Street property. That offer garnered Andella the support of the Historical Commission and the Historic Society, as the Hardy-Pike House is due to be demolished Aug. 3 by Group 1 Automotive, the Houston-based parent company of Ira Toyota. The dealership plans to use the land the house sits on to expand its car lot.
The Planning Board also had voted, 3-2, to endorse the article.
But residents were not convinced. Some argued that the Hardy-Pike House was worth saving but should be moved to a piece of town-owned land. Others said Andella's plan for 15 condo units would spoil the "country feel" of the neighborhood.
Town Historian Warren Carey said he didn't support the condo plan but conceded time was running out to save an historic building.
As a means of killing the article, residents voted 178-46 in favor of indefinite postponement.
Article 34 also generated a good deal of discussion. The town was asking residents for permission to sell a 3-acre parcel of land adjacent to both Krochmal Farm and the 
Sutton Brook Disposal Area Superfund Site (Rocco's Dump) off South Street, for some type of affordable housing.
Town Manager Richard Montuori said the plan was to sell the property to some type of non-profit agency for development of affordable, single-family homes.
Resident Jen Nagle, whose family owns Krochmal Farm, said she wanted to make sure an apartment complex wasn't built on the site and proposed an amendment that would limit development on the land to two, single-family homes. 
Voters approved Nagle's amendment and the amended article.
In other business, Town meeting voters:
  • Defeated an article that would have eliminated the "secret ballot" requirement for future Town Meeting articles dealing with proposed amendments to the personnel bylaws.
  • Approved $975,000 for a new Ladder Truck for the Fire Department
  • Approved $38,000 for the completion of renovations of the Wamesit Indian Park Landscape Project.
  • Approved $151,690 to repair the roof and gutters at Police Headquarters.
  • Approved an amendment to the Mixed-use development bylaws that will now allow the residential component of the development to be in a separate building than the commercial.

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