Duxbury citizens flooded the Mural Room at Town Hall Thursday night to learn more and voice their concerns about the latest 40B proposal to come before the town. Residents from Bay Farm and Woodridge roads made up a majority of the crowd for the Zoning Board of Appeals’ public hearing on Brewster Commons, the 52-unit development being proposed on 13.9 acres of land near the two roadways. These units will be spread out among 18 buildings containing townhouses, flats and attached singles as well as two renovated existing homes which will be made available for occupants over the age of 55.
Brewster Commons is now the fifth 40B proposal in town filed under the state’s “anti-snob” zoning act that allows developers to bypass most town zoning regulations.
At Thursday’s meeting, project manager A.J. Duffy and his team got their first opportunity to present details of the project to the ZBA as well as the nearly 70 people in attendance. Duffy was making the presentation for applicant John Walsh, with whom he previously collaborated to build the Bay Farm Condominium complex which will abut the proposed new development.
The ZBA’s chairman for these hearings, Elizabeth Lewis, made it clear to all those assembled that there would be no final decision that night and that with only one approved 40B project under their belts and two more actively in the hearing process, the proceedings tend to take a few months for all parties to come to “a common understanding.”
The applicant’s presentation began with attorney Robert Galvin giving an overview of the project, which will earmark 13 units as “affordable” for sale at $165,000 each, while the remaining 39 will be sold at a market rate of $444,000-$579,000. This 40B is unique, he said, because every unit will be restricted to occupants over 55 years of age.
Galvin added that the new models will be similar in design and look of those currently at Bay Farm and felt they would fit in well with the town’s character.
“You, as a board, have the authority and obligation to override regulations if we demonstrate that the conditions of what we are showing meets local needs,” said Galvin. “This is a good project in an appropriate section of town that should receive positive consideration.”
Duffy spoke next about how unlike other proposals before the board, this one is not near any wetlands, aquifer districts or flood hazard districts and that the location was harmonious with the nearby condominium complex.
He also discussed an agreement he had made with the Bay Farm Association Trust, the homeowner’s association of the condominium complex, that a 50-foot right of way road off Bay Farm Road be closed by a fence to regular traffic from residents of the new development forever and only for use by police and fire emergency vehicles.
Duffy also addressed the concern of nearby residents regarding a bus stop located in between Tremont Street and Woodridge Road, which many parents feel is dangerous, and his efforts to try to remedy that in designing new roads into the proposed complex.
Following Duffy’s brief presentation, ZBA members asked several questions including James Lampert who asked if Duffy had a problem with the units being deed restricted to two bedrooms, as his plans indicated.
Duffy said he would not agree to that until a definition of “bedroom” could be discussed, indicating that while “the idea of the restriction doesn’t bother me, the definition does.”
Duffy was followed by traffic consultant William Carlson, who applied slightly higher rates than the professional standard to show that the development’s impact on Woodridge Road would go from 18-20 vehicles during the peak morning hours and increase by about 12 vehicles, or one every five minutes. He also said that over a seven year period, there were six accidents on the intersection of Tremont Street and Woodridge Road, indicating that this was not a hazardous area.
When the public got their turn to speak, common concerns by the dozen or so who spoke were on the density of the development for the area proposed and the traffic impact on those who lived on Bay Farm and Woodridge Roads.
Tussock Brook Lane resident Ed McGlinchey referenced a petition he submitted to the ZBA with over 130 signatures from local residents asking that the size of the proposal be decreased for traffic, safety and other concerns. He indicated that while he had no comments at this time, he would be presenting questions for the applicant in the future.
Woodridge Road resident Bridget O’Keefe said she was “wearing two different hats,” speaking as a neighbor of the development as well as acting chairwoman of the Duxbury Municipal Commission on Disabilities.
In a letter to the ZBA, the commission has requested that the board make the proposed age-restricted units more handicap-accessible, listing a number of conditions to help residents who move in stay there as they get older. By enacting conditions such as sufficient wheelchair turning space in kitchens and height requirements for fixtures at the time of construction, this can help the owner later on, she said.
“Our thought is that people who move into age-restricted housing intend to live there for a while,” she said. “The ability to adapt by an owner is crucial.”
As a resident, O’Keefe addressed the bus stop at Woodridge Road/Tremont Street and discussions she already had with the town’s Highway Safety Committee to not utilize Bay Farm Road for the buses to travel on, but instead to create a safer area in unison with the development’s construction.
The public hearing on the Brewster Commons proposal was continued until April 8 at 7:30 p.m. Overseeing Thursday’s hearing were Lewis, Lampert, Sally Wilson, Y.Oktay, Gabriel Crocker and Mark Moriarty.