Neighbors Argue Against 18-Unit Apartment Proposal

After voting down all waiver requests for a proposed apartment building on Kendall Pond Road, the Planning Board agreed to continue to their Dec. 3 meeting a public hearing on the multifamily site plan.

A large crowd of neighbors to the 1.94 acre lot at 19 Kendall Pond Road filled the Town Hall meeting room and spoke against the proposed development at the Board’s Oct. 13 meeting.

“There is no way an 18-unit apartment building belongs at the end of a cul-de-sac,” said abutter Sarah Steinhoff of 4 Magnolia Lane. “Sometimes business needs to be pushed aside and the right thing needs to be done.”

The tone of the meeting got personal, with abutters accusing the developers of only seeing the project as a way to fund their retirement.

Not so, said owner Tim Taylor, who is looking to be a good neighbor and says he is very invested in preserving a safe quality of life for those living in his building and in his neighborhood.

Taylor said the apartments are designed to appeal to an older, more upscale clientele, with amenities like underground parking, an elevator, and bathrooms with easy access showers.

“One of the fears focused around this new population is the character of those people. We seek to bring in high quality character people, and it’s in our best interest to do so,” Taylor said.

The proposed 7,955-square-foot apartment building would include a 160-foot walking trail to the rear of the property, ending at a picnic area for residents to enjoy.

“On our end, we’re trying to be good, modern citizens,” Taylor said, noting the property is currently blighted by a vacant building often occupied by vagrants.

“I realize this is not in the exact mold of houses on that street, but to me, that argument has been framed to be ‘does this fit into my street’ when the real argument is ‘does it fit into my zoning area,’” he said. “And the answer to that is, it does.”

Concerns from Magnolia Road neighbors included the potential for redistricting of children already living in the neighborhood, should the apartment complex result in a significant increase in students attending South Range School; safety issues that could arise with a proposed walking path located behind abutters’ homes; a loss of privacy; and the potential for a decline of their home values.

“This is a lifestyle we’re fighting for,” Shereen Hawkesworth of 24 Magnolia Lane said. “We wanted to buy a safe place for our family, and that will essentially be destroyed with the revolving door of strangers they would be putting in this neighborhood.”

Chairman David Granese also expressed concern that the trail and picnic area, which are secluded near the wooded wetland at the rear of the property, may attract illicit behavior.

Members asked Eric Mitchell, the developers’ planning, engineering, surveying, and environmental consultant, to consider fencing in the path, and asked that the path not run any further than 6 Magnolia Lane.

Member John O’Connor, who was not present for the meeting, raised in a letter to the Board concern with balconies on units facing the home at 4 Magnolia Lane.

Mitchell said he would speak with his client about potentially making that change to the plan.

“The house we purchased was something we looked at as an investment for our family. You can’t pick your neighbors, but you can certainly pick your neighborhood, and we thought we picked our neighborhood,” David Hawkesworth said. “This building may look nice, but it’s not going to look nice at the top of our street.”

Attorney Daniel Muller of Cronin Bisson and Zalinsky P.C., who is representing the property owners, James Taylor and Aaron Hill, told the Board that even if they as members don’t think constructing an apartment complex is an appropriate use of the land, “that decision has already been made by the Zoning Board.”

“Multi-family use is allowed in this zone,” he said, adding that similarly, the height and size of the proposed building is under the maximum allowed by the Town’s zoning ordinance. “From a zoning standpoint, what has been proposed meets regulations.”

But Daria Mlynarski of 7 Magnolia Lane argued, “If this project fit into this area, (the developers) wouldn’t have to ask for all these waivers.”

“I don’t know why we’re considering any waivers if this fits into buildable land and zoning requirements,” Fairbanks agreed.

The Board denied with two separate votes of 0-4-1 waivers from the requirement that the parking lot have a curved landscape bed, as well as from the requirement that the parking lot have an island and maintain 5 percent green space, which would reduce the number of parking spaces available to residents.

Alternate Marc Flattes abstained.

“The ordinance is pretty clear on what needs to be there,” said Member Randall Chase, explaining his vote.

The Board also denied a waiver from the requirement that a 15-foot tree strip be installed running parallel to the frontage of the lot with a 0-4-1 vote.

Flattes abstained.

The developer proposed removing the tree strip after the fire department requested trees not be planted to avoid restricting access in an emergency situation. The board recommended simply installing lower growing trees that won’t pass the second floor of the complex, or another buffer.

“Some buffering is needed. An alternative plan sounds like a good option,” Alternate Lori Davison said.

Finally, the Board denied a waiver from the requirement that all public utilities be underground with a 2-2-1 vote.

Granese and Michael Fairbanks, Town Council representative, voted against the waiver, while Chase and Davison voted yes. Flattes abstained.

 “We put in regulations for underground utilities because it’s a better way of bringing utilities to a building, Granese said.

“I think I would like them to not cross Kendall Pond,” Fairbanks said.

After all four waivers were denied, Muller asked that the Board continue the site plan review to its Dec. 3 meeting to allow his client to work with Mitchell to make changes the board requested and address the concerns of abutters.

The Board voted 4-0-1 to approve the continuance, with Flattes abstaining.

“I hope you come back with these changes and answers to some of the questions heard today,” Granese said. “At the next meeting, there should definitely be a decision made.”