A proposed 13-unit residential development on the site of a former horse farm on Old Billerica Road will move to its ninth month of Planning Board public hearings.
The board on Tuesday resumed its public hearing from April 11, and after comments from members and attendees, agreed to continue to the next regular meeting on Tuesday, May 9.
Discussion of the request by Bilca, LLC for a special permit for a planned residential development at 229, 251A, and 251F Old Billerica Road began on Sept. 12, 2022.
Board Chair Chris Gittins said on Tuesday that he has met with Planning Director Tony Fields and Assistant Planning Director Catherine Perry to discuss the specifications for a special permit. He recommended that the hearing be continued to the board’s May 9 meeting.
Tuesday’s session began with a presentation on the revised site plan by civil engineer Daniel Carr.
Member Amy Lloyd asked if there will be individual electric charging ports afforded to each unit. Carr offered to present this idea to his team. Lloyd also recommended using a so-called Cape Cod sloped curb rather than an asphalt curb in order to minimize deterioration and damage.
She suggested expanding the access road width in order to ensure that vehicles can safely pass each other. Atty. Pamela Brown, representing Bilca, said that road expansion would be difficult in light of the Department of Public Works’ request that the road remain a private way and abutters’ preference for a minimum speed limit.
Answering a question from member Todd Crowley, Carr confirmed that two planned affordable units have been removed as the size of the proposal is being reduced from 17 to 13 units following pressure from neighbors. Brown agreed, saying that abutters had expressed concerns regarding density.
Also at the meeting, Jay Miller of Jay Miller Landscape Architecture presented site plan revisions, emphasizing efforts to reduce light spillage on neighboring properties. The revisions also include the addition of a variety of evergreen trees as screen buffers and a variety of shade trees: flowering pear, zelkova, maple, oak, and honeycomb.
Miller noted that there will also be open space near the barn that could be used as either a community space or a children’s play area.
Lloyd recommended using cherry trees or other trees with more foliage in place of pear trees. In response to a question from Gittins, Miller said that he chose zelkova trees because their foliage makes them ideal shade trees.
Neighbors also had questions and concerns about the landscaping plans. Alec Santilli and Paul Schuman asked that residents be included during the next landscaping meeting, and Don Kennedy requested that residents be afforded another opportunity to do a walk-around of the property. He also expressed concerns about a planned pathway that borders his property and snow storage treatment. Carr assured him that the snow and stormwater treatment plan is in compliance with state policies.
Marcia Bushnell expressed concerns that the current stormwater plans might not be equipped to withstand the impact of future climate change. Carr maintained that the plans were designed based on current models of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association and are fully in compliance with state regulations.
Stephen Andress asked how the new trees are expected to change the landscape over the next 10 years. Miller explained that the trees will grow together and provide shade approximately five years after they are planted.
Johanna Schneider expressed particular concern that the plans she has been provided are not to scale and Brown offered to discuss the plans with her after the meeting.
Sue Baldauf asked if sidewalks will be included in the site plans and, if so, where they would be located. She also asked if the open space in the development will be deemed conservation land, and Brown said that is likely.
Lloyd requested additional information regarding electric vehicle ports and the pedestrian path. She also reiterated her preference that the landscapers not include pear trees. Miller agreed to use a different type of tree.
Editor’s note: The original version of this story stated that Planning Board Chair Chris Gittins said the board will determine sidewalk place. Gittins wrote to The Citizen saying that the “The Planning Board does not determine sidewalk placements either on private property – as in the case of the proposed Planned Residential Development – or on Town property.” He also pointed out that “Public sidewalks are the purview of the Select Board.” Gittins also notes that the Planning Board “does not specify any elements of a development proposal. The proposal is wholly the applicant’s. In the case of a Special Permit application, the Board reviews the application for compliance with our Zoning Bylaws and determines whether the proposal meets the criteria for being awarded a Special Permit – see, e.g., Sections 9.1, 9.3.3, 14.6.1 and 14.6.2 of our Zoning Bylaws – https://bedfordma.gov/DocumentCenter/View/1228/Zoning-Bylaws-PDF. The applicant may amend their proposal prior to the Board’s vote, but the Board does not have authority to make any changes to the proposal.”