WILMINGTON, MA — One of Wilmington’s busiest intersections may soon be getting a lot busier.
The Wilmington Planning Board is currently reviewing a proposal from Jacquelyn Welch, of Mass Equity Investors, to build a residential and commercial development at 203 Lowell Street, at the corner of Woburn Street and Lowell Street, in between Textron and Lucci’s Plaza.
The 3-story residential development is a 57-unit apartment complex, located at the back of the property. The facility would have 120 dedicated parking spots, including a parking garage underneath the building.
The commercial development, which is L-shaped right on the corner of Woburn and Lowell, consists of 7 retail stores on the first floor, with office space on the second and third floors.
A standalone bank, with a drive-thru, will also be built at the front of the site, on the Lowell Street side, near the Textron property.
The site will have two entrances — one from Lowell Street and one from Woburn Street. The Lowell Street entrance would simply realign the existing entrance to the DEP Office, which is located behind the site. The Woburn Street entrance is likely to be parallel, or nearly parallel, to the Lucci’s entrance.
The project will hook into the new sewer on Lowell Street.
“This site was previously approved for a dog pet care facility with two restaurants [including an old-fashioned diner],” noted Doug Lees, the surveyor and engineer for the project. “That project did not go forward. We were ready to put shovels in the ground and something happened and things felt apart. We’re now back with a new perspective and applicant.”
At its most recent meeting, the Planning Board, who are being asked for site plan review, stormwater permitting and a multi-family special permit, agreed to waive the reading the comments submitted by town departments until the applicant makes further submittals. The Board’s Chair Michael Sorrentino did, however, allude to a long list of required changes and revisions that needed to be made. Several board members requested more detailed renderings. Members voted to continue the public hearing to its next meeting on Tuesday, December 4.
Meanwhile, the plans are on file with the Planning and Conservation Department at Town Hall and can be viewed Monday through Friday, 8:30am to 4:30pm.
Selectman Ed Loud, the only member of the public in the audience besides the applicants, spoke out against certain aspects of the project.
“This intersection is already one of the worst in town. I think it’s has a ‘F’ rating. Will a traffic study be done?,” asked Loud.
Sorrentino was unsure if the board would require a traffic study. Lees said that town officials had requested one.
Loud was also not happy that one of the 57 rentals would be affordable units.
“This developer [Michael Welch] has told us we have an affordable housing crisis,” said Loud. “It’s now his turn to help fix that crisis, or at least start the process.”
Welch’s daughter was the developer behind the proposal to rezone Sciarrappa Farm at this year’s Annual Town Meeting, in order to build 250 1 & 2-bedroom units on the site. 40 of them would have been classified as affordable. Michael Welch was harshly critical of the Board of Selectmen in the run up to the Town Meeting for not embracing the plan, claiming they weren’t doing enough to bring affordable units to town.
“It’s very hard to go back to the next developer and ask them to add affordability when we’re not asking these guys to do it,” continued Loud, who noted these 57 units were not even on the town’s radar and will put the town even further in the hole when trying to meet its 10% affordable housing threshold after the 2020 census. If the town’s affordable housing stock falls below 10% of its overall stock, Wilmington will become susceptible to 40B housing projects, which do not need to follow local zoning regulations and are typically higher, bigger, and denser than what’s normally permitted.
“We’re going to wind up in 40B developers’ heaven,” cautioned Loud.
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