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Planning Board weighs what to zone undeveloped property

Planning Board Chair Dick Butler holds up a plot map for residents to view at the board's April 9 meeting. The Planning Board gathered information on a proposed zone change for 27 acres on Boston Road during a public hearing. Reminder Publications photo by Courtney Llewellyn
By Courtney Llewellyn

Reminder Assistant Editor

WILBRAHAM Twenty-seven acres is a lot of land, especially in a town that's growing as quickly as Wilbraham. More than two dozen residents attended Wednesday evening's Planning Board public hearing to share their opinions on what is proposed for a 27-acre lot on Boston Road.

The public hearing took place in regards to a petitioned article for the Annual Town Meeting. Patrick Gregorius, the petitioner, wants to combine the seven parcels of land located from 2407 to 2443 Boston Rd. and 34V Forest Street which are currently zoned for Adult Care Facility (ACF) and rezone them for general business. He was represented at the hearing by Attorney John Drost Jr.

Gregorius' petition was put forward by 19 registered voters of Wilbraham and is seeking a Planning Board recommendation before the town meeting.

Drost explained the land allows for assisted living facilities for the disabled and the elderly and has been zoned this way since 1998. "For 10 years, this zone has had little to no development," Drost said. "Boston Road is really the only developable area in Wilbraham, with an opportunity to increase tax rolls if my client is allowed to develop the site."

"The time has probably come to recognize ACF isn't going to happen," Planning Board member Eric Fuller stated. "Our problem here is there's no definite knowledge of what's going to go here."

Planning Board Chair Dick Butler added, "We need to think a lot more about what the best use for this land is [before we can recommend the article]. Our job is to look out for the town."

Although it has been rumored that Gregorius wants to put a car dealership on the land, Drost said no business plans have been made yet.

Of the six different owners of the seven parcels, four shared their support for the zone change with the Planning Board.

Attorney James Thompson, representing Alexandra and Walter Chrzanowski Jr., owners of 2423 Boston Rd., said his clients were in favor of the business zoning, but that the Planning Board needs to find "something that works for the community."

Chrzanowski Jr. mentioned that a previous proposal called for only 20 acres of the land, ensuring the business area would only have access from Boston Road.

Joe Masiolek, of Forest Street, gathered the signatures of 79 registered voters 40 of whom are abutters to the land in question looking to make the first 200 feet of each lot off Boston Road into general business-zoned land, with the remained of the long lots becoming residentially zoned.

"Add homes to the neighborhood," Masiolek said. "This zoning change [making the entire area general business] is not right. Find another developer to come in. I ask that the Planning Board does not recommend this proposal." He received applause for this statement.

Judy Buckeye, co-owner of the lot located at 2417 Boston Rd., said she was in favor of rezoning the 27 acres into a mixed use area.

"This is a really good time to be thinking about taking that leap," she said.

When the public hearing closed on the issue closed, Butler said he and the rest of the Planning Board would take the information gathered and consider it before deciding whether or not the board would recommend the article.

The meeting also contained public hearings for a large attached garage for a home on Monson Road and proposed zoning bylaw amendments to be made by the Planning Board at the town meeting. There were no opinions from residents on these issues.