Voters to decide future of Boston Road development
Date: 4/25/2011April 25, 2011
By Chris Maza
Reminder Assistant Editor
WILBRAHAM Voters at the Annual Town Meeting May 16 will decide whether to allow a zoning change that would permit a developer to build four new houses near Boston Road.
Article 38 of the warrant calls for a vote to amend the zoning bylaw for a parcel of land on Boston Road and Hillcrest Drive from its current status of General Business to Residential-15.
A two-family home that currently stands at the corner of Boston and Hillcrest will remain.
"The developer submitted a plan where he could legally divide the property into five lots," John Pearsall, director of Planning and Community Development, said. "The two-family house will stay and four new single-family houses will be built."
Pearsall said the neighborhood fully supports the development.
Originally, he said, the developer came to the Planning Board with a proposal to develop a storage facility on the land, which members of the neighborhood opposed at a public hearing, alleging the facility would be unsightly and negatively impact the property values of their homes.
"The developer said that he didn't want to build it, he would rather build houses on the land, but it wasn't zoned for that," Pearsall explained. "So the Planning Board told him if he withdrew his proposal, we would work with him on getting the zoning bylaw changed."
Pearsall acknowledged that residents along the Boston Road corridor are most likely happy that the new development will not be commercial in nature, but also reminded that the town is aided by the commercial business on Route 20.
"In the original master plan, Boston Road was zoned commercial," Pearsall said. "Ninety percent of the town's tax base is residential, but what we've found is that residential development often doesn't pay for itself."
Pearsall went on to explain that commercial developments do not require the number of services that residential developments do. The town spends more money providing those services to residential properties and the tax revenue from commercial properties helps subsidize the town's income.
The Planning Board is also hoping to do a bit of housecleaning in regards to two other zoning bylaws.
The first is a re-zoning issue involving businesses along Boston Road near the Life Care Center of Wilbraham.
Three storefronts facing Boston Road have split zoning on their properties. The Country Bank for Savings, Gregory's Restaurant and a property housing several medical practices are zoned for general business in the front of the property, but are zoned Adult Care Facility (ACF) in the rear.
"Originally, the rear portions were zoned Limited Business, which basically was a weird type of zoning that basically allowed research and development and warehousing," Pearsall explained. "When we developed ACF in the 1990s, we re-zoned that limited business area because the original plan was to have those businesses share a common drive with the Life Care nursing home."
Because that plan did not come to fruition, Pearsall said it "makes no sense" to keep the property zoned for ACF.
The town will also vote on an amendment to a recent addition to the town's zoning bylaws.
"Last year we created a mixed use zone, which we put under Section 3.6," Pearsall explained. "When we went to update the bylaw we discovered a problem. Section 3.6 was already in existence."
Because of this, the Planning Board is proposing that one of the two Section 3.6s be relabeled Section 3.9. The change subsequently would require language in Sections 126.96.36.199, 188.8.131.52, 4.4.4, 4.5.29(C) and 12.5.4, all of which refer to Section 3.6.