I am writing you today about my concerns on Article 60 of the 2021 Annual Town Meeting. This is the Hotel article, rezoning properties on Route 125 and Ainsworth Road. I am not totally opposed to the re-zoning of these properties in general. I am against the way these Parcels are being presented for rezoning at this time.
Article 60 is a request to rezone parcels R2-19A (land with frontage on Route 125), R1-1A (land with frontage on 125), R1-2A (land with frontage on Ainsworth Road), 103-24A (abandoned railroad land between Andover and Woburn Street), and 103-24 (private roadway on Ainsworth Road) from Residential 60 (R60) to Highway Industrial (HI). I have watched the Petitioner make presentations on this project twice. One was at the joint meeting of the Finance Committee and Planning Board and the other at a recent Economic Development Committee meeting. We are presented with a Hotel with restaurants or retail buildings. This project is at the intersection Route 125 and Ballardvale Street, and is being presented as having it’s access point on Route 125. The Petitioner’s consultant, Mr. Michael Caira, their attorney, Mr. Michael Newhouse, and Finance Committee Member Leigh Martinson all pointed out the Petitioner is claiming access for this project on Route 125 with a curb cut. In order to access this property, the petitioner would need approval by the State to have an entrance on Route 125 (at the existing intersection of Route 125 and Ballardvale Street). This is known as a “curb cut”, and it has not been applied for let alone approved by the State. The process of approving this curb cut could take years. The Petitioner currently cannot use this as an access point to their parcels. We should all be aware that they do have a second access point to these parcels. The second access point would be from Ainsworth Road (a roadway that is accessible only from Andover or Woburn Streets, which are residential areas). If you look at the article, the Petitioner is rezoning 5 pieces land, and 2 of those are roadways.
Why are they asking to rezone the parcels on Ainsworth Road and the other between Andover and Woburn Street? Access is the answer to this question. If they cannot get that curb cut, they will use this as access to the larger parcels. We have been told that the property owner would not do that, but I don’t buy it. The property owner is a multi-millionaire who deals in real estate. This property can be sold to another Buyer that will have no ties to this rezoning article and will use whatever access they have.
A curb cut may take years to be approved by the state, but the access on Ainsworth Road will be available immediately if this article passes. You tell me what route a developer would take here.
Asking Town Meeting to vote on this article as presented, we are being asked to approve a rezoning that will allow the Petitioner access to their site by diverting all their traffic through a residential neighborhood. I am sorry, promises that the petitioner would not do that ring hollow to me because when he sells the property the next guy in line won’t have made that promise.
The Petitioner is putting the horse before the cart. They should have worked out their curb cut before putting the townspeople in a position where Highway Industrial property has access through a residential neighborhood. Mr. Caira stated in his presentation in the joint committee meeting that this same article was pulled from the 2020 Annual Town Meeting so that the Petitioner could address some concerns with the Town. As a Selectmen, and as a resident, I would suggest that none of these concerns have been addressed. I have inquired with our Town Manager about any discussions he has had with the proponents about this project, but I have never gotten any answers that are satisfactory to me.
I write you today that I have no knowledge of the conversations that the Petitioner had with the Town, but I can tell you that I have asked. I have asked for clarification about what the Petitioner is seeking to do on this property, and to see what discussions there have been with the Town, but I write this letter having not received one answer to those questions.
The Petitioner should only bring this article forward after the curb cut issue is resolved. This development has been in the works for over two years, and the owner has owned the property for 18 years, so it is disturbing to me that the curb cut issue remains unresolved.
This all brings me back to the point I raised at the Joint Meeting of the Finance Committee and Planning Board – we don’t have enough information from the Petitioner to be asked to vote on this article. While I appreciate Mr. Newhouse, Mr. Caira and Finance Committee Member Martinson trying to point out the proposed intersection and curb cut, I don’t think we can overlook the fact that the curb cut does not exist, and may not ever exist.
Re-zoning these parcels will put the Town in a position where we will be at the mercy of the Petitioner’s dealing with Massachusetts Highway. That is not a position I am willing to put my Town in. I do not understand why Town officials are not concerned with this article and the position it will put our Town in if passed. Our Planning Board unanimously recommended disapproval of this project and that should speak volumes. Approval of Article 60 at the annual town meeting jeopardizes an entire residential neighborhood.
This article, as presented, is not good for Wilmington, and I ask all those reading this letter to start asking questions about why certain town officials are supporting an article that was unanimously disapproved by the Planning board at the recommendation of our professional Planning Director.
Please join me on May 1, 2021 at our annual Town Meeting at the Shriners Auditorium to voice your opposition to this article, and to support the residential properties on Andover Street, Woburn Street and Ainsworth Road that will be negatively affected by it.
Mr. Gary DePalma
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