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Expanded Format Starts Today, April 24th

Public Hearing on Downtown Corridor Held

by Paul Saulnier
April 3, 2017

April 6, 2017. Comments from Town Planner added.

The downtown corridor, as defined by the Planning Board, is the area within the blue outline on the map below.

The maps below show the existing zoning (right map) and the proposed zoning (left map) with six defined zones.

Members of the Planning Board present for the public hearing were, left to right, Geoffrey Zeamer, Chairman David Thorn, Josh Santoro and Karen Langton. Town Planner Karen Sherman was also present.

Thorn opened the hearing and introduced Cynthia Wall, below, of MAPC (the Metropolitan Area     Planning Council).                                                                                                                                                                         

Wall said that she has worked with many towns on zoning and has worked closely with the board to develop a plan designed to meet the following goals:

Wall said that the existing zoning does not reflect the current uses in many areas of town and therefore does not represent what residents want. The problems include zones which divide lots for no particular reason. The proposal divides the downtown corridor into six areas, each with their own changes in lot size and changes in use.

Wall began the presentation describing the proposed use changes in Area One, East Holliston. Changes such as allowed uses and grandfathering of current uses raised objections from several residents including Bob Haberski, below right, owner of the buildings that include The Corner Market and several other businesses on that corner of Washington and Central streets. Haberski felt that the changes devalue his property by restricting uses that were allowed when he purchased the property.

As other areas were described by Wall, objections were raised over the elimination of such uses as the storage or production of fertilizers and compost. Mike Brumber pointed out that the town operates a composting facility at the old landfill, apparently, in his opinion, in violation of current and proposed zoning. Jonathan Varrell lives in one of the designated areas and voiced concern that none of the members of the Planning Board live in the downtown corridor. He felt that the residents directly affected should have been consulted early in the process. He recalled that the proposed "four lane highway" through downtown was similarly designed without a resident of downtown on the Selectmen's advisory panel.

Area 4, Elm / Grove, includes part of Washington, Avon and Linden streets. The proposed rezoning of this area is based on the rezoning of parts of Church Street passed by Town Meeting several years ago which has been successful in preserving the character of that street.

Liz Newlands said that the proposed changes in Mudville (Area 5) might increase development which would in turn increase runoff and exacerbate the already troublesome flooding problems. This area is proposed to be rezoned as was the Church Street area.

Board member Geoffrey Zeamer, above, along with Town Planner Karen Sherman, agreed to look into the issues raised. The hearing was continued to Thursday, April 6, 2017. Those in attendance were encouraged to inform their neighbors and and to return on Thursday in the hopes of bringing the proposal to a vote of the Board in time for Town Meeting in May. Karen Sherman said the]at threre will be a second phase to this plan that will include signage design.

For complete details on the proposed zoning changes go to:

April 7, 2017. Notes by Karen Sherman, Town Planner

There is a zoning petition article (10 registered voters) under consideration and the public hearing has been continued to 4/6 at 7:15 along with all the downtown zoning maps changes. The petition (attached) calls for prohibition of 9 heavy industrial uses in all zoning districts. I think people are hung up on #9. 

It sounds like people are being told "alternative facts" about zoning in general, but know that basically, zoning is prospective and cannot reach back to existing and pre-existing uses. Equipment and materials associated with active construction sites is allowed in all zoning districts. The proposal at #9, in my interpretation, targets fleet lots and outdoor storage ala Cobb's mulch piles on Maple Street in Bellingham (business without buildings).  

Every business is currently allowed outdoor storage of building materials and equipment (excluding scrap and junk) 1. if screened and 2. does not occupy more than 25% of the ground floor area of the main building on the lot. That provision is existing in the by-law and would not change.  In order to exceed the 25% threshold, a Special Permit is required and expansions on individual sites are enforcement issues. Businesses that have those Special Permits currently: Rodenhiser Excavating, Arbor Tree and Village Green Landscaping on Bartzak Drive (New Englander Industrial Park) and Michael Brumber (157 Lowland) & Grasshopper Tree (Jeffrey Ave) & Murray Paving (55 Whitney) in Lowland Industrial Park. 


I hope this clarifies a bit. In addition to the Planning Board, the Economic Development Committee will be reviewing the petition on Thursday morning at its meeting. The petition certainly seems to be the start of an important dialogue about expanding the "general industrial" category existing in the by-law and improving the quality of businesses in town so that "heavy" uses do not drive targeted, desirable uses out of Town. 


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Comments (1)

Just a quick note that the first map in your series is the 1982 version of Village Center Commercial. The current Corridor Study is of a much larger area - Highland to Woodland along Washington and the area north of the rail trail between.

- Karen sherman | 4/3/17 4:04 PM



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