Planning Board Hears 49 Elm St. Proposal

July 6, 2023

At their June 27 meeting, the Planning Board held a preliminary discussion of a potential Center Neighborhood Overlay District, initially focused on the proposed development of the property at 49 Elm Street, although other parcels in the town center area might also be included in an overlay.

Attorney Pamela Brown, representing David Goldbaum/Bespoke Renovations LLC, made the presentation to the Board, prefacing her remarks with the disclaimer that “this is very preliminary.”

 She said, “Ten years or so ago we were talking about this general neighborhood to do some sort of higher-density residential development with more cottage-scale units.”

Brown is looking for a new general bylaw that would provide for higher-density residential, but with smaller scale.

“The goal is to scale down the unit sizes so they would be attractive to downsizing seniors (not necessarily senior housing), and allow for a smaller, less expensive housing stock,” Brown said.

She showed several possible sample locations for a Center Neighborhood Overlay District, in addition to the property at 49 Elm Street.

49 Elm is about an acre and currently has an existing older house, a big barn, and a couple of outbuildings.  Goldbaum’s idea is to maintain the existing house, renovate the barn, and create a driveway to access three additional units, one a single and the other a two-family unit. Any potential bylaw change would include criteria to keep these small-scale and scattered, no more than 8 units per lot, with a house size limit of 2,000 to 2,200 square feet.

“We want to maximize pedestrian opportunities,” Goldbaum pointed out, highlighting the proximity of this property to schools, the library, and other amenities.

Design criteria would include handicap-accessible, energy-efficient units with driveways for emergency vehicles and appropriate landscaping.

Brown stressed that the goal of this introductory presentation was to see whether there is support from the Board for this type of development. She sketched out three potential parcels in the Residential C areas in the center of town where such an overlay district might be created. She has done a survey of density of units/per acre of this general neighborhood and they range from 4 to 14 units per acre. Most of the lots are small, some with two and three-family units.

Board members raised a number of questions about the proposal. Member Jacinda Barbehenn thought the maximum size of units needed to be smaller and the maximum number of units needed to be bigger.

Based on the feedback she received, Brown agreed to return to the Board at their Tuesday, July 11 meeting with further refinement of her proposal.  As Planning Director Tony Fields pointed out, this will be a business discussion and not a public hearing. 

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