WILMINGTON, MA – Earlier this month, the Wilmington Planning Board determined that plans for a proposed detox facility at 362 Middlesex Avenue do meet the requirements of the town’s zoning bylaws.
“Since the last meeting, we’ve addressed technical details with the Planning Department and Engineering Department,” project engineer Ben Osgood told the Board. “We’ve answered all the questions of the other departments.”
“The Town Engineer is all set,” confirmed Wilmington Planning Board Chairman Michael Sorrentino. “And this board has no further questions.”
Sorrentino and Planning Director Valerie Gingrich took turns reading the board’s conditions relative to the project’s definitive subdivision plan, site plan review, and stormwater management plan. The reading of the conditions took 20 minutes.
The board’s unanimous recommendation, along with its lengthy set of conditions, has been forwarded to the Wilmington Board of Appeals, which will take the matter up at its Wednesday, December 12 meeting at 7pm.
Prior to reading the conditions and announcing their decision, however, board members reopened the public hearing to listen to residents on the matter for one final time.
“I’ve looked at the Town Assessor’s map… and focused on what’s been built in the past 20 years,” said resident Anthony Saragosa. “I couldn’t find anything else like this with a new commercial structure built next to seven houses. Why is that the case?.. This is atypical to Wilmington. This looks like an urban design in a suburban setting. It’s much too dense for this site.”
“We understand that,” responded Sorrentino,” but this meets the zoning requirements for that area.”
“What assurances do we have that this project won’t pose a hardship for future tenants of the building relative to size, location, parking, structure and design,” asked abutter MJ Byrnes. “You don’t want to create a potential hardship for future tenants in case the first tenant leaves and is unable to rent to another tenant.”
“The next tenant would have to meet the zoning for that area too, and it’s common for potential building changes to go along with that,” answered Planning Director Valerie Gingrich.
“We were told there’s only three other rehab centers/detoxes in the state that abut residential neighborhoods,” said resident Kimberly McNeely. “What did you use for lighting guidelines?”
“The lighting is for parking lot safety. The light doesn’t wash over the property lines,” assured Osgood.
In response to a follow-up question from McNeely, Osgood confirmed that the MBTA has been notified of the project as an abutter.
Sorrentino then read into the record a letter submitted by members of the Concerned Citizens of Wilmington.
The group argued that the project’s definitive subdivision plan did not meet the criteria established under the town’s rues and regulations, which list 22 items that the plan must contain. As a result of not submitting a completedefinitive subdivision plan within 7 months of the preliminary subdivision plan, the group argues the zoning freeze was not preserved.
The group requested that the Planning Board ask Town Counsel for his opinion on six questions, including if Bettering LLC has, in fact, submitted a complete definitive plan and, if so, what was the earliest submission date of a definitive plan that conformed with all of the town’s rules and regulations.
Resident Ethan Sawyer, one of the letter’s authors, then spoke to reiterate several of the points made in the letter.
“We’re calling out more of the administrative and procedural aspects, which people probably don’t generally question,” began Sawyer. “The definitive plan is very significant in this case. If you don’t follow up with a town-defined definitive plan within 7 months, it’s as though you’re submitting a new plan [with no zoning freeze].”
“We were keeping track of the 7-month deadline,” responded Gingrich. “They submitted the definitive plan, dated May 25, on June 12. They had until June 27.”
“I saw, in letters, there were a couple of items that seemed to be missing from the plan when submitted,” responded Sawyer. “He then had to amend. If the plan doesn’t include them, it’s not technically a definitive plan.”
“There’s a difference between amending and revising,” clarified Gingrich. “Once a plan is submitted, the town will write comments. The plan is then revised through this process… An amendment is a separate process.”
“They have to have the lot and size block numbers on the corner of the plan. They weren’t there,” countered Sawyer. “If you’re missing a component, is it really a definitive plan, or just a rough draft? You can’t be missing all the elements of a definitive plan and call it a definitive plan. I think you need to have ALL the elements. If some are missing, it’s not a definitive plan. It just isn’t.”
“When we get a plan in, we do review it for completeness. We treated this plan like any other plan,” answered Gingrich. “Anything that wasn’t on there or needed to be corrected goes in the comment letter. They’re given to the board and sent to the applicant. The applicant then revised the plan accordingly.”
“In my mind, it was not a complete definitive plan,” stressed Sawyer. “State law says it needs to include the form and content as required by the town law. The town law has very specific requirements.”
“There’s a lot of validity to the previous gentleman’s letter,” said Selectman Mike McCoy, who was the last resident to speak. “Do your due diligence. I think it would be a wonderful thing if a member of this board asked Town Counsel to take a lot at the letter. You that authority and power to send it to Town Counsel. I think it would be a great move.”
Despite McCoy’s urging, the Planning Board choose not to act on the group’s request to contact Town Counsel.
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