Even in a small town we can have our list of acronyms that can make for confusing conversations! It is time for updates on these projects with a minimum of jargon.
The MBTA Task Force, the citizen’s group that is researching options for how the Town might best comply with the state’s mandate to allow multi-family housing on some 39 acres in Town by right (meaning no special permitting process) while maintaining the character of the town, continues to research options. The Task Force, using grant funds, has hired planning consultant Emily Innes and her planning firm to assist. Ms. Innes helped craft the modeling tool the state is using to help assess the compliance of proposed new zoning regulations with the new law and thus is very familiar with what it takes to comply. She has worked with other communities as they work through the zoning requirements and brings a broad spectrum of experiences that will help the Task Force in developing recommendations. Innes has also brought on team members from RKG Associates, an economic, planning and real estate consultancy, to assist with economic issues related to potential new zoning. The efforts will begin focusing on potential new zoning districts both in the Village core area as well as in areas further out. As specific proposals are developed public interest in the details will grow and the planned forums and opportunities for input will become even more important. The MBTA Task Force page on the Town’s web site will provide on-going updates.
Cell Signaling Technologies, CST, the biolab company that is planning to construct its new headquarters on the old quarry next to the Manchester Athletic Club, will be submitting their formal application to the Planning Board most likely in January. This is a large, significant project for the Town. The public hearings on the project will likely last through the winter months. The application submittals will include in-depth analysis of a wide range of topics including traffic management, environmental protection measures, aesthetics, and impacts on municipal services. The Planning Board will be hiring consultants to help assess these submittals and to develop appropriate conditions on the proposed development that enable the project to proceed without undue impacts on the Town. Indeed, the goal is to have a project that provides a net benefit to the community. Voters approved modifications to our zoning regulations to allow the project to get to this stage.
A boost to the project has come in the form of a MassWorks grant award to help pay for new water and sewer utilities to serve the site. The state has awarded the project $3.5 million toward the cost of bringing both utilities under Route 128 through an existing conduit near Mill Street. CST will be providing the million dollar or so match needed to supplement the grant award.
SLV’s proposed 40B project is slowly making its way through the appeal process before the state Housing Appeals Commission. Our Zoning Board of Appeals denied the project and the applicant is appealing the denial to the state. A site walk for the HAC was held a few weeks ago. Many people opposed to the project assembled at the parking lot to the Wilderness Area but only parties to the appeal were allowed on the site walk. The formal hearing before the HAC is slated to begin March 4th and will last a week or so. A decision is expected about a year later. Further appeals to the courts may take place, adding additional years before a final decision is known.
The Manchester Community Center, MCC has notified Harbor’s Point Associates (HPA) of their desire to exercise their option under the current lease agreement to relocate the building that MCC owns (they lease the land from HPA.) Relocating the building keeps the building under the ownership of the MCC.
This decision puts on hold the option voters approved at the Special Town Meeting where the Town would enter into a new lease agreement with HPA for the building and the land on which it sits. The MCC has 90 days to
move the building to another site otherwise the ownership of the building transfers to HPA. If the MCC is not successful in their efforts, then it could be possible for the Town and HPA to restart the discussions about a new lease arrangement as a path forward for continued public uses of the building.
While we have our own alphabet soup of acronyms, by walking you through these updates I hope I have added clarity to what they mean and where things stand with each.