Hearing Continues on Proposed Housing at Former Horse Farm

December 16, 2022

The Planning Board Tuesday continued its virtual public hearing on a request for a special permit that would allow a planned residential development on a former horse farm at 251A and 251F Old Billerica Road.

The hearing began in September, and after testimony on Tuesday the board voted to continue it to Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2023.

Current plans call for up to 17 housing units. The development would include townhouse style duplexes as well as single family cottage style homes. 

Attorney Pamela Brown, representing owner Bilka, LLC, presented updates to the proposed development since it was last discussed by the board. Plans now show the abutting properties, as well as reduction of the road width. 

She also detailed the ways in which the developers have converted the energy source from gas to electric and solar power per the board’s request. 

The updates additionally include a gate that would block the development from through traffic. She emphasized that the gate would also discourage residents from outside of the development from parking and creating traffic in the development in order to access the adjoining conservation land. 

Also, changes have been made to the proposed water infiltration in order to ensure that rainwater will drain into the nearby Shawsheen River, and not onto abutters’ properties.

Board member Amy Lloyd asked that the square footage be clarified to more accurately gauge the value of the project. Lloyd insisted that the square footage is “deceiving” as a finished basement could be converted into additional square footage. Developer Ali Khaledi confirmed that the houses will be sold at 1,700 square feet and will not include finished basements. 

Addressing Lloyd’s concerns, member Jacinda Barbehenn suggested that it would be “a win-win-win for the town, the developer, and the residents that live there to construct the basements to be code ready to be finished out as accessory dwelling units.”

Member Todd Crowley raised concerns that the road may be too wide, but Brown maintained that if the road was any narrower it would limit emergency vehicle accessibility. 

Barbehenn also raised concerns that residents outside of the development may want to use the adjoining conservation land. Residents can’t preclude this from happening, she said; since the open spaces are town property they must be open to all town residents. 

Abutter Stephen Andress expressed concern that the roadway is along his property line. He said that he worried that its proximity of the roadway might cause issues with storm drainage, lighting, and snow storage on his property. He asked if it would be possible to store snow so that it does not infringe on his property line. 

He also asked what specific type of solar power the development would use, and suggested that rooftop solar panels are visually unappealing and may lower the value of abutting properties. Brown offered to provide materials related to storm drainage to all abutters. 

Attorney Johanna Schneider spoke on behalf of her client, abutter Emily Wade. She noted that no changes have been made to the development plan that addressed Wade’s concerns regarding buffer landscaping and the use of the private way to access public open spaces. She also said that the use of solar panels would likely require additional tree removal, further raising Wade’s privacy concerns. 

She explained that while Brown did reach out to her client, she was disappointed at the lack of material changes to the plan in response to public comments. Brown insisted that the buffering is within zoning bylaws and assured Schneider that her team intends to work with abutters to find a landscaping plan that will best serve all parties.

Larry Croes, another abutter, asked if the snow storage area as outlined in the current plans would be feasible given the current landscaping. Brown agreed that the area currently designated might not make sense and offered to review it further with the engineers. 

Abutter Paul Schuman asked for further clarification as to how many trees will be moved and where they will be moved from. Brown offered to review this matter with the developers and provide clarification to the abutters.

Resident Patricia Lennon requested that the property line for the road be clarified. She also asked for a lighting plan that would show how the developers are addressing light pollution. Brown offered to provide additional details regarding both matters.

Abutter Charles Dao expressed concerns that storm drainage from the development may flood his courtyard. He also asked for more information regarding tree removal. Brown insisted that the current plan would mitigate any flooding concerns and reiterated her intention to provide additional information regarding tree removal.

[Editor’s Note: Additional quotes were added on 12/19/2022.]

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